The Biden administration's mandate for employees at companies with more than 100 workers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or undergo weekly tests removes control from automotive executives. It's not how they like to work, but it's the push they need to drive their businesses forward.
Automakers, suppliers, dealers and the UAW have been in a tug of war in the months since the vaccines became widely available. Their choices: Protect workers but upset some of them by mandating vaccination, or let workers decide on vaccines but risk spreading the virus within workspaces.
Now that the government has taken that decision off auto executives' shoulders, companies should endorse the vaccines rather than encourage weekly testing. The health of their employees and their businesses depends on it.
In late July in this space, we said employers have a responsibility and a right to ensure their workplaces are as safe as possible. That means enforcing vaccinations or mask-wearing for those employees who are unable to get vaccinated. We maintain this stance. Weekly testing is better than inaction, but a negative test result one day of the week doesn't prove that an employee is virus-free.
High coronavirus-related absentee rates at microchip manufacturing and processing centers in Asia have been slowing vehicle production over the past few months. The effect of the virus at U.S. plants hasn't been as pronounced since vaccines became more available here, but a vaccine requirement will ensure the highest level of safety and advance the country toward herd immunity.
Before the government mandate, a number of nonautomotive companies had required the vaccines or weekly testing. Delta Air Lines went a step further, planning to charge unvaccinated employees $200 per month. Since then, 20 percent of Delta's unvaccinated employees have gotten the jab.
Most automakers had encouraged vaccination for employees before the White House outlined its plan. GM last month required all 42,000 salaried employees in the U.S. to report their vaccination status but didn't apply the same standard to its 46,000 hourly workers.
The path to ending the pandemic is clear: widespread vaccination. The government mandate is a good start, but automotive leaders should continue to encourage the jab to protect their workers and the industry.