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Restaurants demand more access to Covid vaccine, but unlikely to force workers to receive it

As the rollout of the Covid vaccine gains momentum nationwide, restaurants are evaluating options to encourage workers to get vaccinated.

Catering workers are recommended in phase 1 (c) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lists of people to be vaccinated when supply is limited, just behind high-risk healthcare workers, the elderly and the elderly. essential front-line workers. The National Restaurant Association has called for priority to those working in the restaurant business after the first responders and the most vulnerable.

“Prioritizing vaccine testing and distribution will help secure our communities’ food supply chain and ensure that workers in the agriculture and catering industry can safely sell and serve healthy food,” Industry group spokesperson Sean Kennedy said in a statement to CNBC. . “The Association continues to engage with administration on vaccine distribution planning and state restaurant associations are working to ensure catering workers continue to be viewed as safety critical.” food and are a priority in their plans for the deployment of state vaccines. “

Starbucks provides logistical support

Starbucks last week announced a partnership with its home state, Washington, to speed up the rollout of its vaccine. The coffee giant aims to help the state achieve 45,000 injections per day with the assignment of 11 employees specializing in labor and deployment, operations and research and development to work full-time on vaccine distribution, NBC News first reported.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Roz Brewer, COO of Starbucks, said the company has yet to make a decision on vaccine mandates for partners or guests.

“We will do everything we can to impact and improve the distribution and delivery of the immunization process. And that is [what is] most importantly, to get the whole community immunized, “Brewer said.” To make sure everyone understands the importance of this. “

Large catering companies are evaluating the next steps when it comes to employees.

Chipotle and Miam! The brands have told CNBC they will not impose vaccinations on workers. Chipotle says he will strongly encourage vaccinations by providing workers with resources and access, and Yum! said he did not foresee such a mandate at the time.

Companies such as McDonald’s, Restaurant Brands International, Dunkin ‘Brands and Papa John’s, all of which have a significant franchisee presence, have yet to take a public stand for workers or franchisees. Domino’s told CNBC he had a team investigating the issue, but also didn’t have a public perspective yet. Once established, it will be shared with franchisees, he said.

“The greatest good”

Franchisees and franchisors can generally require workers to get vaccinated, with some exemptions, according to Jim Paretti, shareholder of Littler Mendelson’s Workplace Policy Institute, which focuses on labor and employment law.

However, a franchise business is unlikely to do more than suggest restaurant owners follow specific guidelines, due to the ongoing litigation over the joint employer rule, which is still pending in the courts. The rule, which says that an employee of one company can also be considered an employee of another company, could change under the new administration.

McDonald’s in 2019 scored a big victory under the National Labor Relations Board ruling that the company was not responsible for actions taken at its franchise locations, meaning it is not a joint employer with its franchisees. It is something that the industry continues to monitor.

“This is what is probably going to make franchisors act with caution and want to do things in terms of guidance, recommendations, suggestions, resources for franchisees rather than direction from above,” said Paretti.

Meanwhile, at Amel Morris’ pizzeria, Lefty’s Place, in Morgantown, West Virginia, the focus is on getting the vaccine and advancing. The small restaurant has only six employees and Morris said he does not plan to force vaccinations, but is ready to help workers access them.

“Everyone wants to be vaccinated. If they happened to need time off, we would have coverage so they could go and do it. Some of them don’t have a car, so we would drive them. over there, ”Morris said. “It’s to help the greater good get more people to get it and hopefully get everyone back to normal.”

“If it took $ 50 for someone to go do it, I’ll give them some money if that was the push needed in that direction.”

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