Panel manufacturers worry vaccine mandate will worsen labor shortage
October 8, 2021 | 3:16 pm CDT

More than three quarters of members surveyed by the Composite Panel Association say they fear new federal vaccine mandates will cost them employees and make the current labor shortage worse.

CPA was responding to an executive order issued by President Biden on September 9, calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to begin development of an emergency temporary standard mandating U.S. companies with more than 100 employees to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all staff. Alternatively, those not willing to be vaccinated would need to produce a negative COVID-19 test on a weekly basis.

CPA circulated a survey in September to members to assess the potential impact of such a mandate on member operations. More than 75 percent of responding companies said they do not presently have a vaccine mandate for employees, though several indicated that they have strongly encouraged employees to get vaccinated.

More than 75 percent of responders reported that a mandate could result in employees deciding to discontinue employment, further exacerbating ongoing labor shortages.

Survey respondents also predicted the mandates would also have an impact on mill production. Several responders to the survey noted that the mandate might lead to temporary production disruptions, depending on the ultimate impact on mill employment. 

As to the alternative of weekly COVID testing, a majority (60 percent) did not see that as a significant problem, indicating that there was no local shortage of testing resources.

OSHA continues work on the emergency standard, and a number of key details remain unclear, said a CPA spokesman. Questions remain about when the standard may be issued, how much time employers will have to implement the mandate, and whom will be responsible for weekly employee testing, if an employee elects that option in lieu of a vaccine.

CPA appreciates the member participation in the vaccine survey and will continue to monitor and report on this matter as the mandate’s details are released from the administration, said a spokesman.

Founded in 1960, the Composite Panel Association represents the North American composite panel industry on technical, regulatory, quality assurance and product acceptance issues. CPA general members include 30 of the leading manufacturers of particleboard, medium density fiberboard and hardboard. Together they represent more than 92 percent the total panel manufacturing capacity in US, Canada and Mexico.

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William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editorial director of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.