NM businesses mull over vaccine requirement for employees

Business

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) –Some already have, but there are concerns it could hurt businesses in an already competitive hiring market. The state said it’s working with private companies on requiring vaccines for employees, like Stahmann’s Pecans in Dona Ana County.


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“We require vaccination for employment just like we require proof of work eligibility in the U.S.,” said Rafael Rovirosa, director of operations at Stahmann’s Pecans. “That was the main driver, wanting to create a safe workplace in the face of the delta variant.”

Company workers don’t have to get vaccinated citing certain medical or religious reasons but will wear masks and get tested regularly. The company employees 100-200 people, depending on the season. It said losing employees over the policy was a concern but that it mostly received positive feedback. The company said about 96% of its staff is now vaccinated.

“For the most part, the experience has actually been quite positive. There were a few people that were still unconvinced but once we implemented the mandate and talked to them a little bit more and addressed their concerns… they went and got their vaccines,” said Rovirosa.

Other companies like Garcia’s Kitchen are still encouraging employees to get vaccinated but not requiring it. The part-owner, Dan Garcia, said losing employees was also a concern.

“To try to make employees do something that they don’t want to do is hard. If we’re going to do that then we’re going to probably lose a lot of employees and it’s not really required right now,” Garcia said. “If they’re going to make the businesses have everybody be vaccinated then it’s kind of apples to apples for all the businesses around the state, not just Garcia’s trying to make them be vaccinated. Because they could just leave here, go somewhere down the street where they don’t require it and get a job.”

Garcia said they will follow other state mandates like requiring masks indoors, a temporary mandate that goes into effect on Friday. The New Mexico Restaurant Association said it is asking restaurants to encourage their employees to get vaccinated but is not asking them to require vaccines citing legal concerns.

PNM is asking all of its employees to be vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test every week before entering its facilities. “Our top priority is to keep our employees, customers, and communities safe,” said Eric Chavez, spokesperson for PNM, in an email. “As of right now, we are expecting all of our employees to be returning to the work place on Monday, September 13th giving employees ample time to get vaccinated or tested. We will continue to follow the guidance of the governor and the CDC to ensure the safety of our employees and the communities we serve.”

The state didn’t have names of other companies it worked with to require vaccines for employees but the Environment Department said it has worked with pharmacies to provide on-site vaccination clinics at businesses like Bueno Foods and Weck’s on Louisiana in Albuquerque.

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber Of Commerce said most businesses in the area are encouraging vaccines and not requiring them for employees.

“Many businesses have delayed bringing their total staff back in response to increased cases due to the Delta variant. Businesses are masking up in indoor settings and complying with the Governor’s recent orders. Finally, businesses are monitoring the situation closely and seeking all ways to stay open and keep employees and customers safe,” Terri Cole, CEO of the chamber, said in part in an emailed statement.

“Both the governor’s office and state departments are working with business networks throughout the state and across industries to encourage vaccination policies and support vaccinations in the private sector in any way we can. Not only do vaccines protect workers themselves, their families, and the greater New Mexico community, but a vaccinated workforce also protects a business’s economic recovery,” Nora Sackett, Press Secretary for the Governor’s Office, said in part in an email.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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