Politics

Biden touts employer vaccine mandates at meeting with top execs from Microsoft, Walgreens and others

Key Points
  • President Joe Biden discussed the effectiveness of employer vaccine mandates with top executives from companies including Disney, Microsoft and Walgreens Boots Alliance.
  • Following the meeting, Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle told CNBC his company is "thrilled" with the federal mandate.
  • The meeting comes a week after Biden announced sweeping new rules that will require all companies with more than 100 employees to require either vaccination or weekly Covid testing.

In this article

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This needed to happen: Columbia Sportswear CEO on Biden vaccine mandate

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden praised the effectiveness of employer vaccine mandates Wednesday in a meeting with top executives from companies including Disney, Microsoft, Columbia Sportswear and Walgreens Boots Alliance.

The event was aimed at showcasing employers that have instituted mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policies across their workforce, and highlighting how these requirements have dramatically improved vaccination rates among employees.

The meeting came a week after Biden announced sweeping new rules that will require all companies with more than 100 employees to require either vaccination or weekly Covid testing. Companies that fail to comply could face thousands of dollars in fines per employee.

Following the meeting, Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle told CNBC his company is "thrilled" with the federal mandate.

"We've had mandate discussions internally in the company for many many months," he said. "And frankly, the government coming in, laying down a structure is welcomed and will be very good for the country. And I'm just thrilled with the president's leadership on this."

Boyle said the forthcoming vaccine requirements, which are expected in the coming weeks, will create "a level playing field" for employers by providing concrete rules that apply uniformly across the country.

"In the past several years ... we have been operating under rules that go county by county, city by city," Boyle said. "How are we supposed to manage that?"

Biden and Boyle were joined at the meeting by Microsoft president Brad Smith, Disney CEO Bob Chapek, Walgreens CEO Roz Brewer, and Greg Adams, the chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente.

U.S. President Joe Biden, center, speaks during a meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Library in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.
Oliver Contreras | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Also in attendance were Business Roundtable President and CEO Josh Bolten, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia President and CEO Madeline Bell, Louisiana State University President William Tate and Molly Moon Neitzel, the founder and CEO of Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream.

"Vaccinations mean fewer infections, hospitalizations and deaths, and in turn it means a stronger economy," Biden said at the start of the meeting. "I look forward to working together to beat this pandemic to keep our economy growing and growing strong."

Biden said the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are drafting the rules, which, once implemented will impact as many as 80 million workers.

The private sector mandate was in addition to executive orders Biden signed that require all federal employees and federal government contractors to be vaccinated.

He also announced vaccine requirements for 17 million health-care workers at facilities receiving funds from Medicare and Medicaid, including hospitals, home care facilities and dialysis centers.

In total, the new rules will apply to nearly 100 million working Americans.

In crafting the new rules, the Biden administration consulted with White House attorneys and legal experts.

But major legal and logistical questions still remain.

Many large employers and institutions around the country have already implemented a patchwork of vaccine incentives and requirements for their workers.

At Walgreens, for instance, all office support workers are required to be vaccinated by Sept. 30. But the rules for hourly drugstore staff are still being devised.

Sept. 30 is also the deadline for salaried and nonunion employees at Disney to be vaccinated. Unionized employees will have another three weeks, according to the terms of a deal that Walt Disney reached with the Service Trades Council Union in August.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is requiring that all employees, visitors and vendors entering its U.S. offices be vaccinated. But rules for remote workers and workers outside of the United States are still being devised.

Biden's vaccine mandate for midsized and large employers has received strong pushback from Republican governors, who claim the requirements violate state laws.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a lawsuit against the requirements Tuesday, claiming a mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees is unconstitutional.