Some companies and organizations in the glass and fenestration industry may have breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday when the Supreme Court ruled to block an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule mandating businesses with at least 100 employees require workers to be vaccinated or get tested weekly and wear a mask.
Oliver Stepe, president, YKK AP America, says he believes in vaccinations to prevent COVID-19, but the challenges would have proved burdensome to companies such as his.
“While I firmly believe that a multiple pronged approach to mitigation measures including vaccination is the best way to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and to pave the road to recovery, at YKK AP America we are very relieved that the ETS has been stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court. While well-intended, the ETS posed serious, over burdensome challenges for our company and our employees.”
At YKK, the company “has maintained a policy that supports the freedom of individual choice when it comes to vaccination.”
“While the health benefits of promoting vaccination are well intended, the ETS has a weekly testing alternative for those who choose not to get vaccinated, the testing option creates serious operational challenges, would place extreme burdens on our employees, and could risk our ability to maintain stable service to our customers,” Stepe adds.
The Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) has been monitoring the rule as well, and Kathy Krafka Harkema, U.S. technical operations director, points out it’s “challenging to monitor the latest government requirements or guidelines,” illustrating the ever-changing regulatory environment in the U.S.
“FGIA is committed to informing our members of regulatory requirements that may (or may no longer) be required by law or which they wish to consider on a voluntary basis,” she says. “One thing’s for certain, the industry can expect more changes as the COVID-19 pandemic and virus variants evolve.”
Regardless of the ruling, many companies will continue to encourage employees to receive the COVID vaccine.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic and the subsequent availability of vaccines, we have been extremely proactive in the promotion and education of our employees and communities on the importance of well-known mitigation measures and the benefits of vaccination,” says Stepe.
Some of these initiatives include continuous distribution of educational materials to employees as well as the launch of an externally focused “Good Neighbor” campaign on Facebook and local radio and an internally focused “Our Best Shot” campaign that promoted the benefits of mitigation and vaccination.
Stepe points out that YKK’s internal employee vaccination rate is as high as 90% in some locations.
“In the middle Georgia region where we have our main manufacturing plants and largest number of employees, our employee vaccination rates are as high as 50% percent greater than the vaccination rates of the communities in which we operate,” he says. “I believe these results are a testament to our employees and their desire to support each other, their communities, and our customers.”
In Minnesota, more than 4,500 employers would have been affected by the requirement, including Andersen Windows and Doors, which recently invested in Ubiquitous Energy. While the window giant opted not to require vaccinations for existing employees, receiving the vaccine was a requirement of its profit-sharing program announced in December 2021.
“At Andersen, we made the decision earlier this year not to institute a vaccine mandate for existing employees given all we have been through together over the past 21 months,” says chairman and CEO Jay Lund. “Going forward, we believe it continues to be our responsibility to take appropriate measures to help reduce the impact of this pandemic on our people and our communities. We’ve chosen to do this by incentivizing current and future employees through a vaccination requirement as part of our 2022 profit-sharing program.”
PGT Innovations, manufacturer of impact-resistant door and windows, made a statement about the Supreme Court decision that would no doubt have impacted its operations throughout its plants.
“As an organization that holds our team member safety, health, and well-being as our number one priority, we certainly agree with the overarching objective of doing everything possible to protect our folks; however, we felt that the proposed mandate imposed arbitrary, unnecessary, and onerous terms on all companies and their employees,” says Jeff Jackson, president and CEO. “We are confident that there is a solution that allows for the protection of a working individual’s health and their freedom to choose their own medical treatment, while also supporting all businesses – regardless of size – that are already operating in an environment burdened by many other obstacles as a result of the pandemic.”