As the COVID-19 pandemic keeps changing, plenty of manufacturers are looking for answers on how to protect their employees. To help clarify where we stand and what comes next, the NAM hosted a town hall on the strategies manufacturers are deploying to keep workplaces safe as well the vaccine policies some companies are implementing in response to the delta variant.
Who participated: Moderated by NAM Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Robyn Boerstling, the webinar featured Dr. Michael Ybarra of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association (PhRMA); NAM Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary Linda Kelly; Senior Director of Global Compensation & Mobility R.J. Corning of Whirlpool Corporation; and Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Shannon Lapierre of Stanley Black & Decker.
The vaccination deal: Dr. Ybarra gave a rundown of the current state-of-play in the pandemic, detailing the various kinds of vaccines—protein-based, viral vector, and mRNA—and laying out which vaccines have been approved for use in the U.S. (Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna). He explained the reasons why variants are occurring, and the possible need for booster shots as the effectiveness of vaccines wanes and variants create further challenges.
- Who’s at risk: “It’s still the unvaccinated,” said Dr. Ybarra. “It’s people who are young and think they’re invincible and don’t need the vaccine, and people who maybe just got one dose of the vaccine and didn’t complete their series. That’s the super high risk.”
- Masks on: “Even if you’re vaccinated, you should wear a mask indoors,” said Dr. Ybarra. “You don’t want to stress test the vaccine.”
- An important reminder: Ybarra noted a “humbling reality”: that almost all of the current COVID-19 deaths are among unvaccinated people.
“The best thing you can do right now is get the vaccine if you’re not vaccinated,” said Dr. Ybarra. “It’ll provide protection against the worst impacts of COVID-19. And if you’re in that high stress environment of being indoors with people whom you don’t know are vaccinated, it’s important to wear a mask because it will provide that extra layer of protection.”
An NAM policy rundown: Kelly provided an overview of the NAM’s policies and explained its phased approach to a vaccine mandate for all employees.
- A vaccine mandate: In July, the NAM made a decision to require all NAM employees to be vaccinated or to seek accommodations for medical or religious reasons by September 20.
- A NAM, a plan: “This decision was not taken lightly,” said Kelly. “We talked about it for a long time, we worked through a lot of issues, we sought outside legal advice on it. But we saw it as the next evolution on our ongoing workplace safety posture during the pandemic.”
- Good feedback: “As we have been rolling this out…we’ve actually heard from a number of employees who have thanked us, because the policy has made them feel safer about being in the office,” said Kelly.
- Useful advice: “No matter what you’re doing on your vaccine policies, you need to have your HR, your legal team, and your communications team working very closely together,” she added.
Cases in point: Corning and Lapierre discussed the actions they have taken at Whirlpool and Stanley Black & Decker to prioritize employee health and safety.
- Masking up: Both Whirlpool and Stanley Black & Decker have responded to the increase in cases by re-imposing mask mandates.
- Incentivizing vaccines: While vaccines are not yet mandatory for employees, Whirlpool is focused on making it easy for people to be vaccinated—in particular by holding large onsite vaccination clinics where possible. It is also providing $250 to people who get vaccinated. Stanley Black & Decker has sent its chief medical officer and local doctors to facilities where vaccine uptake is low to answer questions and provide encouragement. The company has also set up on-site vaccine clinics where possible.
- Collecting data: Whirlpool is working to collect data from its employees to better understand who is getting vaccinated, and to gather information on any breakthrough infections. Stanley Black & Decker, meanwhile, surveyed its employees early on in order to gauge interest in vaccinations so it could target its efforts appropriately. Both are taking care to protect their workers’ confidentiality.
The last word: “We’re not going to have all the answers, but we can help guide people in the right direction and help them make the best choices for their circumstances,” said Boerstling.
Manufacturing businesses have long been proponents of equality in the workplace. As legislation to codify protections for LGBT individuals passes through the House of Representatives, the National Association of Manufacturers joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and other members of the business community in advocating its passage, forging coalitions and providing congressional testimony.
Introduced with bipartisan support in the U.S. House and Senate in March, the Equality Act includes federal protections for individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity under the existing framework of the Civil Rights Act, which already provides protection against discrimination on the basis of religion, national origin, race, color or sex. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that no person can face legal discrimination based on their gender or sexual orientation, setting a clear federal standard to enable individuals to succeed based on their abilities and qualifications to perform a job.
“Employers understand the importance of creating an environment in which the very best people can succeed based on merit,” Patrick Hedren, NAM vice president, labor, legal and regulatory policy, said. “At the same time, manufacturers know that discrimination in any form is antithetical to the values that we work to uphold every day: equality of opportunity, individual liberty, free enterprise and competitiveness.”
In March, more than 40 other industry associations rallied to support the Equality Act, providing an important boost for the groundbreaking legislation. In the weeks since, manufacturing representatives have testified before the House Education and Labor Committee and signed a coalition letter to the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services calling for the Act’s passage. As Congress considers the way forward, manufacturers have made clear that they intend to advocate forcefully on behalf of the legislation and uphold their commitment to workers of every gender identity and sexual orientation.
“The Equality Act creates a clear federal standard that matches the sentiments manufacturers already share: gender identity and sexual orientation have no impact on an employee’s abilities and discrimination is not welcome on the manufacturing floor,” Hedren said. “We look forward to working with Congress as this important legislation moves ahead.”
Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement after the Department of Labor (DOL) rescinded the 2016 Persuader Rule:
Manufacturers have fought for this victory for many years in the courts, in Congress and with two administrations, using the full weight of our policy, government relations and legal teams, said Timmons. The NAM’s Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action was able to halt the rule in court in 2016.And in 2017, the Trump administration, as part of its broader regulatory relief agenda, thankfully began the process of unwinding the rule. This overreaching rule threatened to impose serious burdens on manufacturers and upend employee–employer communications. Now manufacturers are relieved that this threat to workplace communications is finally and officially off the books. Commonsense steps like this to rein in onerous regulations are a major reason why manufacturers are reporting record-high business optimism.
The Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action (MCLA) is the leading voice of manufacturers in the courts and engages in a range of activities, including direct party litigation and operating a robust amicus program, as well as educating manufacturers about emerging legal trends. The MCLA is led by NAM Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly and NAM Vice President of Litigation and Deputy General Counsel Peter Tolsdorf. More information on the MCLA can be found here.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12 million men and women, contributes $2.25 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic impact of any major sector and accounts for more than three-quarters of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the Manufacturers or to follow us on Shopfloor, Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.