About Those Vaccine Mandates…

Oct. 27, 2021
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Let me start by saying that I am vaccinated against COVID-19. My entire family is vaccinated. Endeavor Business Media encourages its employees who are eligible to get vaccinated. My decision to get vaccinated was a simple one for me. I have family members who have caught the virus, and my wife is immunocompromised. But I understand that the decision does not come so easily for others. It can be even more difficult for construction contractors to mandate vaccinations among their employees.

For example, the city of Portland, OR, is considering expanding its vaccine mandate for its employees to cover city contractors. The problem is, even if these contractors want to comply, they’re worried that a large number of their employees would simply walk off the job under such a mandate.

In a report for Oregon Public Broadcasting, Rebecca Ellis writes, “Portland’s new chief procurement officer, Biko Taylor, says he will release a final vaccination policy for the companies the city has hired for construction work and other contracting jobs by Oct. 29.

"The proposal has already proved contentious. Some contractors argue the city should harness its purchasing power to encourage workers to get the shot. Other companies warn a huge fraction of their workforce will walk off the job, decimating their business and slowing down massive infrastructure projects on taxpayer’s dime. Studies have found vaccine hesitancy is particularly high within the construction industry.

‘We do know the typical blue-collar workers we employ are pretty strong in their convictions,’ said Ryan McDonald, the president of Northwest Utility Contractors Association. ‘They’re not going to do it.’”

Ellis reports that Portland companies are afraid a mass exodus of workers would cause major delays on city projects. She reports, “Portland’s policy has inspired vehement pushback among the companies that have so far dodged other government mandates. Opponents of including city contractors in the vaccination requirement worry the impact won’t just be on their business but will reverberate across Portland.”

There are contractors, as Ellis points out, who believe fears of worker walkouts are overblown. The OPB article quoted Michael Burch with the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, who said, “I would not predict how many [employees] we would lose. But I know that buildings still need to be built.”

As federal, state, and local governments continue to roll out vaccine mandates, I ask that you refrain from passing judgment on the contractors and companies who may not comply. The decisions they have to make are not easy.