business news in context, analysis with attitude

On Thursday we reported that "a coalition of trade associations has sent a letter to several US agencies asking them 'to issue statements 'emphasizing that state and local rules should not place the burden of verifying vaccination on employees'.'

The letter comes as a direct response to a new Oregon policy requiring store employees "to verify the vaccination status of customers."

Lauren G. R. Johnson, CEO-president of Bend, Oregon-based Rudy's Markets, sent me the following email:

Thanks for the piece on Oregon vaccination/masking.  Through the advocacy efforts of NWGA (NW Grocers Assoc.) and OBI I was able to share the comments below with the governor this week.  I was one of a few grocers on the call as well as Walmart and Home Depot to name a few.  I think our words fell on deaf ears as I believe she isn’t able to humble herself to the state and course correct to align with the rest of the nation and get our staff out of the policing business.  Unfortunate doesn’t even come close to how I really feel…you know me well enough to guess the words I’d really use.  Here were my comments to her:

Low unemployment means I can’t staff for my regular business let alone man the doors to be the vaccine card and mask police.

My employees are in harm's way in the position of vaccine card/mask verification:  Threatened by open-carry gun owners … Yelling … Harassment  … Employees quitting their jobs … Employees wanting a leave of absence … Hiring security at the doors of one store ($17,000 per month) last year, considering having to do it again … Explaining how HIPAA works and that it doesn’t apply to this situation … Being yelled at that we are just like Hitler and no better, blatantly called nazis … Staff in tears, myself included, at the awful things people are calling in and saying in person.

We’ve had to turn off commenting online due to threats of violence against our employees and business.

You know you have a problem when the mayor of a town who walks into the store, is asked for verification of vaccine then turns around and walks out.

A few quotes of Dr. Sidelinger, State Health Officer in the Oregonian 5/14 show how out of touch with reality and real life our leadership is:

“Right now I would anticipate that that would be seeing a card with the individuals name, the vaccines they’ve gotten and the date and where they’ve gotten them.”

“…I’m asking and hoping Oregonians will continue to do what’s right”

“I hope that no one out there is dishonest, People have choices now about how they want to protect themselves and their communities and we’ll hope that they’ll do that."

Governor, people read headlines and your agency’s headlines  that people no longer need to wear masks is all they see, not the requirements.  They hear the CDC, the President and yourself say oh yes, you have a choice, you can require mask wearing to avoid checking vaccine status.  That simply doesn’t cut it, customers say all these positions of authority say I don’t have to, so I don’t have to.  We are not trained or educated to be in this position of enforcement that you have put us in.

The rush announcement by both the federal government and that of our state leadership have put my staff in harms way.  Not that long ago we as grocery workers were lauded as heroes.  Now we find ourselves from hero, to zero.  Shame on you all.

My ask:  Align with Washington state and the rest of the country in what is and what is not required of private sector business.  Reflect the honor system with signage, nothing more.

Lauren is absolutely right about this.  While at the moment I think that it seems prudent to continue asking customers and employees to wear masks, it is not fair to put that onus on store employees to verify and enforce these rules.

Last week I did an Eye-Opener about how Westborn Market - which I consistently describe as the best food store in the country that nobody ever has heard of - works to assure that its employees see the company as doing more than just offering them a job.

MNB reader Brad Halverson reacted:

Nice mention of Westborn Market. They are the real deal and I’d argue the welcome video reflects perfectly. Brian Bandyk, with Mark Anusbigian and his family present a place you want to shop every day. The product freshness, good tasting private label offerings, and customer experience are in rare air among the best grocers.

On another subject, from an MNB reader:

I normally would read MNB for the trade content but it’s always refreshing when the page wanders into movie or sports content. I found this week’s Bob Dylan videos to be a great diversion. Well Done!

Thanks.  It was fun.

I took an extended weekend because my oldest son, who lives in Chicago, flew home on Thursday and we hadn't seen him since December 26, 2019.

One MNB reader wrote:

Enjoy the time with your son! It brought tears to my eyes to think you haven’t seen him in over 17-months. I don’t know if I could have made it that long without seeing mine. Have a great weekend and enjoy your time with him.

From another reader:

Enjoy and cherish your time with your son. Covid has brought about a lot of things to ponder.

And another:

KC, we traveled by car over 1000 miles each way a week ago for a three-day reunion with our son and daughter in law and their 8 children we had not seen in two years and our daughter and son in law we had not seen in 17 months. It was a terrific three days and I wish your family a great weekend with your son. These are the most important moments in life!

Agreed.  And thanks.