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Can mandatory vaccinations bring back restaurant workers?

A waiter sets up tables in front of a restaurant in New York City.
Reuters/Carlo Allegri
Back at work.
  • Michelle Cheng
By Michelle Cheng


Published Last updated

Against the backdrop of Delta-variant cases surging in the US, a growing number of restaurants are requiring proof of vaccinations against Covid-19. Danny Meyer, CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group and founder of Shake Shack, recently said he won’t hire workers or serve customers in his restaurants who aren’t vaccinated. Restaurants and bars across cities like San Francisco and Kansas City have also mandated vaccinations, as have food processors like Tyson Foods.

Companies who mandate vaccinations could attract more employees who want a safe workplace, according to labor economists. The fear of contracting Covid-19 remains a major factor keeping unemployed workers from not urgently seeking jobs, according to data from jobs site Indeed.

Some employers, who are gauging how workers will respond, could see this as a “selling point,” says Erica Groshen, an economist at Cornell. Workers may view it as a signal these companies care about their safety—and it could help retain them. For many essential workers, fears of Covid go beyond catching or spreading the virus: without guaranteed sick leave, they can’t afford to be out of work for extended periods of time.

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