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Biden to push vaccine mandates in meeting with top execs from Microsoft, Walgreens, others

U.S. President Joe Biden meets with Cuban American leaders in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 30, 2021.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will discuss the effectiveness of employer vaccine mandates Wednesday with top executives from companies including Walt Disney, Microsoft, Columbia Sportswear and Walgreens Boots Alliance.

The meeting at the White House will be mostly in person, with a few attendees present virtually, a White House official told CNBC.

The event will showcase companies that have instituted mandatory Covid vaccination policies across their workforce, and how these requirements have dramatically improved vaccination rates among employees.

“This event will serve as a rallying cry for more businesses across the country to step up and institute similar measures,” said a White House official who spoke on background in order to preview the event.

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Participants will include Microsoft president Brad Smith, Disney CEO Bob Chapek, Walgreens CEO Roz Brewer, Columbia Sportswear chairman and CEO Tim Boyle and Greg Adams, the chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente.

Also expected to attend are Business Roundtable president and CEO Josh Bolten, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia president and CEO Madeline Bell, Louisiana State University president William Tate and Molly Moon Neitzel, the founder and CEO of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream.

The meeting comes a week after Biden announced sweeping new rules that will require all companies with more than 100 employees to require either vaccination or weekly Covid testing. Companies that fail to comply could face thousands of dollars in fines per employee.

Biden said the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are drafting the rules, which are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

Once implemented, the corporate rules will impact as many as 80 million workers.

The private sector mandates are in addition to executive orders Biden signed that require all federal employees and federal government contractors to be vaccinated.

He also announced vaccine requirements for 17 million health care workers at facilities receiving funds from Medicare and Medicaid, including hospitals, home care facilities and dialysis centers.

In total, the new rules will apply to nearly 100 million working Americans.

In crafting the new rules, the Biden administration consulted with White House attorneys and legal experts.

But major legal and logistical questions still remain.

So far, many large employers and institutions around the country have implemented a patchwork of vaccine incentives and requirements for their workers.

At Walgreens, for instance, all office support workers are required to be vaccinated by Sept. 30.

Sept. 30 is also the deadline for salaried and non-union employees at Walt Disney to be vaccinated. Unionized employees will have another three weeks, according to the terms of a deal that Walt Disney reached with the Service Trades Council Union in August.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is requiring that all employees, visitors and vendors entering its U.S. offices be vaccinated.

Biden’s vaccine mandate for midsized and large employers has received strong pushback from Republican governors, who claim the requirements violate state laws.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a lawsuit against the requirements on Tuesday, claiming that a mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees is unconstitutional.

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