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Delta steps up pressure on employees to get vaccinated. – The New York Times

Daily Business Briefing

Aug. 25, 2021, 1:14 p.m. ET

Aug. 25, 2021, 1:14 p.m. ET

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Delta Air Lines is intensifying pressure on employees to get vaccinated with a series of increasingly burdensome requirements over the coming weeks and months, though it stopped short of the mandates that other airlines and businesses have put in place.

In a letter to employees on Wednesday, the carrier’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, said that those who have not been vaccinated will immediately be required to wear masks indoors. Starting on Sept. 12, they will also have to take weekly coronavirus tests.

On Sept. 30, unvaccinated workers will lose pay protection for employees who test positive for the virus and miss work while having to quarantine. Finally, starting on Nov. 1, any employee who remains unvaccinated will have to pay an additional $200 per month to remain on the company’s health care plan.

“This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company,” Mr. Bastian said. “In recent weeks since the rise of the B.1.617.2 variant, all Delta employees who have been hospitalized with Covid were not fully vaccinated.”

The average coronavirus-related hospitalization has cost the company about $40,000 per person, he said. Like many large employers, Delta insures its own work force, meaning it pays health costs directly and hires insurance companies to manage its plans.

The onerous requirements apply to a shrinking share of the airline’s work force, with 75 percent of employees now vaccinated, Mr. Bastian said.

“We’ve always known that vaccinations are the most effective tool to keep our people safe and healthy in the face of this global health crisis,” he said. “That’s why we’re taking additional, robust actions to increase our vaccination rate.”

Delta, which is based in Atlanta, its biggest hub, operates the largest vaccination site in Georgia out of its flight museum, Mr. Bastian said. More than 115,000 doses have been administered to state residents there and more than 150,000 doses have been given to employees, their family and friends.

About 50.5 percent of Georgia’s adult population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which puts the state near the bottom of the country.

The airline’s approach differs from that of some competitors. Earlier this month, for example, United Airlines announced that it would require vaccines across the board. That mandate will take effect on Sept. 27. United employees who provide proof of vaccination by Sept. 20 will receive a full day’s pay. Frontier Airlines, a smaller carrier, said it would require vaccination by Oct. 1.

A garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2013. A new international agreement protecting workers there takes effect Sept. 1.
Credit…Tomas Munita for The New York Times

A new agreement intended to protect workers in the Bangladeshi garment industry was unveiled on Wednesday, following months of deadlock between international fashion retailers and trade unions and local factory owners.

The new agreement, called the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, will take effect Sept. 1. It will replace the landmark Accord on Fire and Building Safety, forged in 2013 in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse that killed 1,100 garment workers.

In the original agreement, almost 200 international brands — including H&M, PVH and Primark — agreed for the first time to legally binding safety commitments, independent inspections at the factories and contributions for safety training and factory improvements.

As that accord neared expiration, and the Bangladeshi fashion sector continued to grapple with the fallout of the pandemic, there was widespread wrangling over what might come next.

The new agreement contains many of the hallmarks of the original, including the ability to subject retailers to legal action if their factories fail to meet labor safety standards; shared responsibility for governance between suppliers and brands; safety committee training and monitoring overseen by the Bangladeshi-based RMG Sustainability Council, and an independent complaints mechanism.

Brands also committed to expanding the new accord to at least one other country beyond Bangladesh. The agreement is valid for 26 months.

“We are extremely encouraged by this new agreement, which preserves key obligations from the original accord and which will hopefully ensure credibility and accountability at a critical time for the Bangladeshi garment industry,” said Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global union, a Swiss-based federation of unions across 150 countries and a signatory of the agreements.

The Swedish retailer H&M was the first brand to confirm that it had signed the new agreement, followed by Inditex, with more expected to follow suit in the coming days. But American retailers such as Walmart and Target were not expected to participate. The two, along with other American firms including Gap, signed The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety in 2013, which was less constraining and not legally binding for retailers. It expired in 2018.

Bangladesh was the world’s second-largest garment exporter since 2010 after China, according to World Trade Organization, but last month lost that ranking to Vietnam amid pandemic lockdowns and rising coronavirus cases. The garment industry has become the foundation of the economy for the country of 166 million people.

A Warby Parker store in Brooklyn. The company has filed for a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange.
Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

The trendy eyewear brand Warby Parker has filed for a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange, a public offering whereby a company lists existing shares on the market, rather than raising money by issuing new stock.

The filing comes as a number of other online retail brands, like Allbirds and Fabletics, are preparing market debuts as tech companies and consumer names are in high demand, the DealBook newsletter reports. Warby Parker was last valued at about $3 billion in the private market.

The filing provided the first glimpse at Warby Parker’s finances. As with most digitally native brands, it is both growing quickly and losing money. It reported revenue of $270 million in the first half of this year, up more than 50 percent from the same period last year, which was dented by store closures during the pandemic. Its first-half loss narrowed to around $7 million, from $10 million last year.

Warby now generates about half of its sales online and half in its 145 stores, the company said, and it has plans to open more across the country.

As it expands, Warby Parker said that people spending more time with screens would be good for business. “The rising usage of smartphones, tablets, computers and other devices has contributed significantly to increased vision correction needs and consistent new customer growth within the eyewear market,” the company said in the filing.

Warby Parker is registering as a public benefit corporation, a designation granted to companies that take a wide range of stakeholders into account as part of their corporate missions. In Warby’s rundown of risks for investors, the company warned that “our duty to balance a variety of interests may result in actions that do not maximize stockholder value.”

Some companies that went public with such designations have stumbled, like Etsy, but rising investor interest in environmental, social and governance, or E.S.G., issues investing has made it increasingly popular. Shares of Lemonade, an insurer that is a public benefit corporation, have more than doubled from their I.P.O. price last summer. The satellite company Planet, which carries the same designation, is set to go public via SPAC.

Drivers protest outside the headquarters of Uber in October. The company wants to create a new classification for gig workers, allowing them to get benefits while remaining independent contractors.
Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Uber and Lyft have in recent months accelerated a push for what they call a “third way” of working, a classification of independent gig workers who receive limited benefits without gaining employee status.

But that plan was upended on Friday evening by a California judge who ruled that the ballot initiative backed by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other so-called gig economy companies violated the state’s Constitution.

An appeal could overturn the judge’s decision, but even an expedited appeal could take several months, Kate Conger and Kellen Browning report for The New York Times.

For now, gig economy companies might be required to begin paying into workers’ compensation funds — but the companies argue that nothing will change until the appeal is resolved. They also said they had no immediate plans to change how drivers were classified. All of the provisions of ballot initiative will stay in place until the appeals process is completed, said Geoff Vetter, a spokesman for a coalition representing the companies.

Stacey Leyton, the lawyer for the drivers, disagreed, arguing that drivers ought to be considered employees immediately.

The California fight is starting to be repeated in other states. In August, the companies filed for a similar ballot push in Massachusetts, where gig worker treatment is already facing close scrutiny.

Labor activists vowed to keep up their fight and plan to help drivers’ organizing and activist efforts.

“We’ll continue to support their actions for their demand for basic rights that are afforded to them under current law, reaffirmed to them on Friday,” said Alma Hernández, the executive director for Service Employees International Union California.

The Food and Drug Administration gave full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday.
Credit…Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

After 16 months of remote work in the pandemic, companies are eager to bring their workers back the office, but many have been hesitant to institute vaccine mandates. The Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday gave them an opportunity to move forward.

Several companies have announced vaccine mandates this week in an effort to protect their employees and visitors in the workplace:

  • Ford Motor will require its U.S. employees to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 before any international business travel, the company said on Wednesday, while all other employees are “encouraged” to get vaccinated. The company also pushed its return-to-office date to January.

  • Deloitte said on Tuesday employees in its U.S. facilities have until Oct. 11 to receive the vaccine against Covid-19, seven weeks after the full approval of the vaccine by the F.D.A.

  • Goldman Sachs told employees on Tuesday that it would require anyone who entered the bank’s U.S. offices, including clients, to be fully vaccinated starting on Sept. 7. Unvaccinated employees must work from home, and fully vaccinated employees must undergo weekly coronavirus testing.

  • On Monday, Chevron said it was mandating vaccines for expats and employees who travel internationally, as well as for the offshore work force in the Gulf of Mexico and for some onshore support personnel.

  • CVS Health said on Monday that its pharmacists have until Nov. 30 to be fully vaccinated, while others who interact with patients, and all corporate staff, have until Oct. 31.

Any company is within its legal rights to require employees get vaccinated, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

  • U.S. stocks rose in midday trading on Wednesday after closing at record highs on Tuesday.

  • The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.3 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 600 closed with little gains.

  • Oil prices rose, with West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, ticking up 0.6 percent to $67.95 a barrel.

  • Dick’s Sporting Goods rose 16 percent after the retailer reported that sales grew by 21 percent in the three months ending in July, as more customers bought outdoor equipment and sporting wear.

  • Shares for AMC and GameStop fluctuated in midday trading on Wednesday after the meme stocks, bolstered by small investors earlier in the year, closed more than 20 percent the day before.

  • Investors are preparing for an annual gathering of economists and central bankers later this week. Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve’s chair, will speak on Friday and may reveal details about how and when the bank plans to begin winding down its bond-buying program. The event, typically held in Wyoming, will again be held virtually this year.