Kathy Garfield, president of the Keller Companies, speaks out against the federal employer vaccine mandate at a press conference organized by Gov. Chris Sununu on Monday. (Ethan DeWitt | New Hampshire Bulletin)
As New Hampshire joins a multi-state lawsuit against a Biden administration employee vaccine mandate, some state business leaders are arguing the mandate will cause them to lose employees.
At a press conference Monday, a group of business representatives argued the new mandate – which directs businesses with employees of 100 or more to require vaccines or weekly COVID-19 tests – will drive their employees to seek jobs at businesses that don’t carry those mandates.
“For 97 years, I feel like our company has been able to thrive and succeed because we listen to our team members – we listen to our guests,” said Amanda Grappone Osmer, director of corporate potential at the Grappone Automotive Group in Bow.
The business leaders, who included Kathy Garfield, president of the Keller Companies, a Manchester-based manufacturer, and Tom Boucher, CEO at Great New Hampshire Restaurants, predicted that some employees would quit even with the option of choosing weekly COVID-19 testing over taking a vaccine. Those who did opt for testing could be faced with high costs and difficulties, the businesses warned.
“We’ve had employees come forward and say that if we mandate the vaccine or this comes to be, they will not get the vaccine and they will not get tested,” Garfield said. “How can I run a business when I have no talent?”
“Speaking of testing,” she added, “has anybody tried to get a COVID test in the last week? I have – I went to three facilities. It’s impossible.”
None of the business leaders specified what proportion of their staff might leave because of the mandate; each said they hadn’t asked their employees directly. For now, the companies have not made preparations to carry out the mandate should it survive legal challenges, they said.
The press conference, organized by Gov. Chris Sununu, comes days after the state’s attorney general, John Formella, joined 10 other states in filing a lawsuit against the mandate in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.
Biden’s directive, issued through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, would require the employers in question to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated by Jan. 4. The mandate was put on hold Saturday by an emergency stay by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana; that court will decide whether to make that stay permanent after hearing from parties.
Challenges have proceeded in other U.S. district courts in recent days, with plaintiffs hoping to force a decision from either the Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court.
Democrats bristled at Monday’s press conference, lambasting Sununu for criticizing the vaccine mandates during a period of high caseloads and deaths in the state.
“Sununu is trying to score political points with far-right anti-vaxxers by opposing proven strategies to get this pandemic under control,” party chairman Ray Buckley said in a statement.
Recent state polling suggests that those who are still not vaccinated in New Hampshire may respond poorly to federal vaccine mandates.
In a Sept. 21 edition Granite State Poll from the University of New Hampshire, 91 percent of vaccine skeptics said they would quit their job if their employer required that they be vaccinated.
That number was a significant jump from an August poll, in which 47 percent of respondents said they would quit, 23 percent said they would be vaccinated, and 30 percent were not sure.
Biden announced his vaccine mandate on Sept. 9.
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