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Earlier this summer, it looked like the United States was on a gradual but relatively straightforward path out of the pandemic, with many of us set to return to the office after Labor Day. But with COVID Delta variant cases sharply on the rise over the past month and the holiday fast approaching, we’ve had to adjust our expectations. And, as the spread of COVID cases has primarily been among the unvaccinated, we’ve also collectively had to rethink the question of vaccine mandates.
This week we and our partner The Harris Poll fielded an update to the question on vaccine mandates in the private sector that we first asked Americans back in mid-June. We found a 10 percentage point jump in favorability of corporations requiring vaccines for on-site workers (with legally mandated health and religious exemptions), from 36-46%. Those who believe employers should encourage but not require dropped from 37-31% and those who opposed a mandate dropped from 17-15%.
We saw increases in favor of a vaccine mandate across every demographic we track, including political affiliation, which you can comb through in more detail in a chart below and on our website.
Many of the country’s largest companies now have a vaccine mandate in place for workers returning to offices or customer-facing roles, including Anthem, BlackRock, Cisco, Citigroup, Google, Lyft, Netflix, Salesforce, Twitter, Tyson Foods, Uber, and ViacomCBS. United became the first U.S. airline to require vaccination, and this week McDonald’s and the New YorkStock Exchange added their own requirements.
Other companies are finding ways to compromise. For example, Ford’s mandate is only for employees undertaking international business travel, Goldman Sachs and Walgreens are allowing weekly testing options for the unvaccinated, and Microsoft and Walmart are putting their requirements into effect in September and October, respectively. Several of the companies previously mentioned have also pushed back larger returns to the office by a few months, as well.
Complicating matters further, another poll this week – this one from Qualtrics and Quartz, of a representative sample of 1,000 Americans – found that 44% of workers would consider leaving their job if a vaccine mandate were put in effect, and that 38% of workers would consider leaving if it were not.
Taking this and our own polling into consideration, it appears that whichever path business leaders choose, it will be impossible to please everyone.
This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism
ExxonMobil has been ousted from the Climate Leadership Council after one of its lobbyists appeared in a leaked video claiming the company was only a member because it knew a carbon tax would be near impossible to implement.
Google considers reducing the pay of employees who choose to permanently work from home.
McCormick & Company partners with Citibank and IFC to provide financial incentives and better rate terms for suppliers that meet certain ESG standards.
Tyson Foods increases worker pay to $22 per hour, creates more flexible shifts, and pilots child-care programs to try to attract workers and improve its reputation.
Walmart offers bonuses and temporary pay raises to try to hold onto warehouse workers ahead of the holiday shopping season.
What’s Happening at JUST
Alison Omens penned an editorial for Thomson Reuters Foundation on why the “labor shortage” is actually a good jobs shortage, with workers making it clear that they’re no longer willing to accept a job that puts their health, safety, and financial well-being at risk.
JUST was featured in this CNBC article discussing how companies can bridge the divide between racial and environmental justice, featuring Microsoft’s new partnership with Volt Energy, one of the few Black-owned energy firms. We highly recommend this post by our JUST colleagues if you’d like to dig deeper into this issue.
Also on CNBC.com this week is a feature exploring how long Berkshire Hathaway can buck the ESG trend, with several great insights and quotes from Martin.
We’re heading to SXSW! Or…almost! Our panel “Building Tools to Advance Inclusive Capitalism” – featuring our own Alison Omens, Jean Case of the Case Foundation, Charisse Conanan Johnson of Next Street, and Otis Rolley of the Rockefeller Foundation – is live on the panel picker platform. But to make SXSW happen, we need your support! Simply follow this link to register and vote up our panel!
“A policy of voluntary vaccinations has not tamed this virus. At the current infection and death rate, thousands more will die if vaccination rates don’t move higher. Increasing vaccination rates is sound health policy that will save lives. Why would leading companies not require vaccinations to protect their employees from this virus?”
- Bill George, former Medtronic CEO, in a Fortune op-ed calling for companies to begin requiring their employees to get vaccinated.
“Many of them today are sitting down and saying, ‘I want to really understand where this is coming from… What are the sources of risk if there is a tsunami in Japan? If there is a weather issue in Texas, what does that mean to my supply chain?…every CEO is talking about de-risking their supply chain, supply chain resiliency, how do I get my components, and how do I make sure I get them forever without trade issues.”
- Revathi Advaithi, CEO of Flex, the third largest manufacturer in the world, speaking about how COVID has dramatically changed how companies are thinking about supply chain resiliency on Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast.
“Humanity is ‘unequivocally’ responsible for climate change. In past reports, we’ve had to make that statement more hesitantly. Now it’s a statement of fact.”
- Gregory Flato, a vice chair of the IPCC, speaking to the Atlantic on the dire findings of its 2021 climate report.
Must-Reads of the Week
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its landmark 2021 report, delivering a stark “code red for humanity.” The Atlantic calls the findings “a catastrophe,” and Bloomberg shares five key takeaways. Hear what it means for business from JUST board member and Ceres president Mindy Lubber in conversation with LinkedIn News’ Caroline Fairchild and EDF’s Ben Ratner.
Ford Foundation President Darren Walker writes in The Atlantic how post-pandemic employers need to reorient their policies around workers: from improving conditions for the disabled, to dismantling hiring barriers for people with criminal records, to providing sick days, paid leave, and affordable healthcare.
Quartz examines the next frontier of workplace equity – asking how to make the office more friendly to working parents and why it’s so hard to erase the bias against them. The article dovetails with this comment Jean Case made in her fireside chat with JUST and Mellody Hobson: “It’s on all of us, and I’m particularly talking to the men, who are leaders and executives to make it clear that they too are parents, and to be a little transparent about what all parents need and that it’s not exclusively a working moms issue.” Watch the full conversation here.
The Washington Post reveals that the average supermarket and restaurant worker hourly wage has reached $15 for the first time ever in the U.S.
Yahoo Finance looks at the impending disaster that is the United States’ ongoing truck driver shortage.
Chart of the Week
With the rising risk of the Delta variant, Americans are increasingly in favor of employer mandates for the COVID-19 vaccine. Our latest research with The Harris Poll shows that a plurality of respondents (46%) think that employers should require vaccines of their workforce, a 10 percentage point increase from just two months ago.