Getting beyond vaccine mandate theater
The rapid expansion in the number of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations due to the delta variant has governments and pundits eyeing mask and vaccine mandates. Some businesses are getting in on vaccine mandates, making it clear they want their workers to get jabs before returning to the office.
But as Katherine Rampell writes, those “woke” company requirements aren’t all they seem:
Companies instituting vaccine mandates aren’t getting “tough”; they’re usually giving in, mostly in limited circumstances when constituents demand such mandates.
Many companies that recently announced vaccine requirements have workforces or customer bases that already have high vaccination rates, judging from available statistics on vaccination by income, education, geography and other demographics. In many cases, firms first surveyed their workers or customers about their vaccination status, and only after confirming that almost everyone who’d be affected was already vaccinated did they require vaccination.
In other words: Companies are primarily imposing mandates on people who don’t need them.
Why? The way to lure higher-income, college-educated, mostly already-vaccinated people back to the office, the gym or indoor dining is to assure them that everyone nearby will be inoculated. This population wants their environment to be safe, after all.
It’s signaling. But the signals don’t end there:
Walmart and Walgreens, for instance, have mandates for white-collar corporate and “support office” employees but not for store and warehouse workers. Uber and Lyft’s policies apply to corporate employees working in offices but not to drivers — so, unfortunately, not to the people in public-facing positions, where covid is a bigger risk.
What we have, then, is a slice of mandate theater. Some companies are going further. Tysons Foods, for example, has mandated its entire 120,000 member workforce — office workers and plant workers alike.
The point is as companies realize that a return to normal operations requires a vaccinated workforce, more mandates will be announced. And not just for the folks at headquarters, but throughout the organization. Remember: these are private businesses setting conditions for a safe work environment — entirely within their rights. Those who choose not to comply may find themselves subjected to regular testing, or be asked to find employment elsewhere.