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Utah businesses say there aren't enough workers and a federal vaccine mandate would make things worse

A screenshot of a Zoom meeting.
Screenshot of Utah Legislature Vaccine Hearing
Hundreds of Utahns showed up at the state Capitol Monday for a legislative hearing on the federal COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandate.

A Utah legislative committee took public comment on President Joe Biden’s vaccine plan for three hours Monday, with most people speaking in opposition.

The plan would require businesses with at least 100 employees to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine or weekly testing.

State legislative staff said that would apply to around 3% of businesses, accounting for about 65% of employees.

Ben Hart, deputy director of Utah’s Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, said he’s been talking with businesses in the state about the proposed policy.

He said leaders generally support vaccinations, but they’re concerned a mandate would cause their employees to leave.

“The number one concern that we're hearing is, ‘What is this going to mean for my talent and my workforce?’” Hart said. “There are real issues finding labor right now.”

Rob Moore, CEO of Big D Construction, said they have 600 employees along the Wasatch Front — and the majority of them are already vaccinated. But he’s worried about those who have said they won’t get the shot.

“If we have a mandate that states we have to be vaccinated, we will lose employees,” Moore said. “Those employees will go to other industries or smaller businesses that don't require the vaccination. This will be very difficult to impose on the Utah workforce.”

Ginger Chinn, vice president of public policy at the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, said they want businesses to make their own decisions “in the best interest of their employees and customers.”

“What may be prudent for one business may not be prudent for all businesses, and government overreach creates operating and legal uncertainties for many of our businesses,” Chinn said. “There's a trickle down, and it could especially impact our small businesses.”

Some recent surveys show even though people say they’ll quit over their employer’s vaccine mandates, that isn’t happening. Instead, it tends to result in a rise in vaccination rates.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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