The 21 Hats offices will be closed Monday because of Martin Luther King Day. While the 21 Hats Podcast Dashboard will be published as usual, the Morning Report will return on Tuesday.
Here are today’s highlights:
Producer price increases are softening.
Arkansas is handing out Bitcoin to attract tech workers.
There may be more government support coming for restaurants.
For remote workers, sick days are over.
The Supreme Court’s decision to block OSHA’s vaccine-or-test mandate leaves a difficult decision up to employers: “Franz Spielvogel, who owns Laughing Planet, a chain of fast casual restaurants with more than 200 employees, required his employees to be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly testing by mid-January and does not plan to change that rule. But the Supreme Court’s decision frustrated him, he said, because he no longer has federal cover to justify his policy. ‘It turns into a bit of a head scratcher for us,’ Mr. Spielvogel said, though the recent surge of Covid-19 cases has made him feel more strongly about the need for a mandate. ‘As a business owner and as an employer and as someone dealing with the public, I want my customers to know they’re walking into a safe place.’”
“In a November poll of 543 companies by the consulting firm Willis Towers Watson, 57 percent said they either required or planned to require Covid-19 vaccinations.”
“That included 32 percent that planned to mandate vaccines only if the OSHA rule takes effect.”
“Seven percent said they planned to carry it out regardless of the outcome.”
“[Douglas Brayley, an employment lawyer] noted that the Supreme Court did not say anything against employer vaccination mandates.” READ MORE
Some companies may institute mandates just to keep the doors open: “While many companies have already imposed their own vaccine requirements, about one in three employers planned to do so only if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule took effect. Those companies now face a decision, one that might be forced upon them by surging Covid-19 infection rates that have sent absenteeism soaring at plants, hospitals and other workplaces.”
“‘With this new variant, employers who were on the fence before about doing a mandate will have to look at whether testing or vaccination will be necessary just to continue operating,’ said Rachel Conn, an employment and OSHA partner at law firm Nixon Peabody LLP.”
“‘It may be about just keeping the facility open at this point.’” READ MORE
The Supreme Court decision means businesses face a patchwork of state policies: “As of this month, 13 states have some form of prohibition against requiring people to be vaccinated or to showing proof of immunization, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-policy organization. In Montana, employers cannot take action against workers based on vaccination status. Texas forbids employers from compelling workers or consumers to receive a coronavirus vaccine. And in Utah, employers must offer an exemption to any employee or job applicant who does not want to receive a vaccine or show proof of having gotten a shot.”
“‘That’s one of the main challenges. There are different stances on how states deal with vaccine,’ said Anthony Perera, founder and chief executive of Air Pros USA, a home-services company specializing in heating and air conditioning with branches in seven states, including Florida and Colorado.”
“Adhering to each state’s rule ‘is more of an administrative pain in the neck for us,’ Perera said, especially as the company has grown from 200 workers to about 500 during the pandemic.” READ MORE
When Citigroup told employees they would be fired if they did not get vaccinated, most got vaccinated: “The bank reached 99 percent compliance with its mandate before a Friday deadline, Sara Wechter, the bank’s head of human resources, wrote on LinkedIn on Thursday. That was up from 90 percent on Jan. 7, according to a person familiar with the policies who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters.” READ MORE
THE COVID ECONOMY
The increase in prices suppliers charge businesses has slowed: “The Labor Department said Thursday that its producer-price index rose 0.2 percent in December from November, the slowest pace since November 2020 and down sharply from a revised 1.0 percent the prior month—a possible sign of easing inflationary pressures in the U.S. supply chain. However, prices remain much higher than they were a year ago, climbing 9.7 percent on a 12-month basis, down just slightly from November’s revised 9.8 percent rise, the fastest since records began in 2010.” READ MORE
For remote workers, there are no more sick days: “Omicron has stricken millions and left businesses unable to operate fully as sickened or exposed workers isolate at home. For those already working from home, though, the variant’s milder symptoms and changing standards about what severity of illness merits a sick day mean that many Covid-infected workers are powering through, muting themselves on Zoom to cough, sneeze or blow their noses as they muddle through the day. Before Covid, calling in sick was as much about preventing the spread of germs to office mates as it was about taking time to get well.”
“A number of factors are driving remote employees to work through Covid. Some say their companies are asking them to continue working if they’re able. Others say taking sick days will put them behind on assignments or burden colleagues. Some say they don’t feel bad enough to stop working and prefer not to sit around the house with nothing to do.”
“Americans are notorious for not taking time off. Pre-pandemic, U.S. workers left roughly a quarter of their annual paid time off on the table, according to U.S. Travel Association research.” READ MORE
Tech workers can get Bitcoin for moving to Arkansas: “For the past year, a Northwest Arkansas nonprofit has offered a select few tech workers, artists and entrepreneurs $10,000 to move to the region. Starting this month, newcomers can get their bonus in Bitcoin. Never mind that $10,000 will buy you about a quarter of a Bitcoin in today’s market. The announcement marks the region’s foray into positioning itself as a cryptocurrency hub — and represents the latest twist on the economic development strategy the Northwest Arkansas Council deployed in November 2020, when the nonprofit started offering $10,000 in cash, and a bike, to individuals who were willing to resettle there.”
“Incentivizing migration in this way has become a familiar play in small cities across the U.S. They’re starting to use philanthropy and public dollars to lure individuals in coveted fields to become permanent residents, in a similar model to how cities use tax breaks to lure whole companies.”
“Only about 50 people have migrated to Northwest Arkansas so far through the program, which is funded by the Walton Family Foundation.”
“More than half of them are women, and unlike other programs, they’re not all fully remote workers: 38 percent are in STEM fields, 36 percent are business owners or startup founders, and 26 percent are artists or creatives.” READ MORE
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Restaurants could get another lifeline: “A bipartisan Senate group is negotiating a bill to provide about $40 billion in fresh funding for pandemic-battered restaurants, Senate Small Business Chairman Benjamin L. Cardin said Wednesday. While the details aren't final, the Maryland Democrat told reporters that senators are considering an aid package for struggling businesses that could more than double the amount of pandemic aid funneled to restaurants, bars and others in the food service industry.”
“‘It’s pretty urgent to get done,’ Cardin told reporters. ‘The problem is floor time and how do you get to it, and also making sure we have adequate bipartisan support.’”
“The restaurant industry has been clamoring for more federal aid since burning through $28.6 billion Congress provided as part of a pandemic relief package last year.”
“Only about a third of the restaurants that applied for aid last year received a grant under the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, leaving nearly 200,000 restaurants and bars struggling to stay afloat without aid.” READ MORE
THE 21 HATS PODCAST
Maybe it’s not the marketing: This week, we introduce a new member of the 21 Hats Podcast team, Shawn Busse, who tells Jay Goltz and Laura Zander about an intriguing challenge he faces. Twenty-two years ago, Shawn co-founded a marketing firm called Kinesis, but now he’s trying to convince clients that it takes more than just marketing. Sometimes, it’s not enough just to drive more leads. Sometimes, you have to step back and take a deeper look at your business, which not every client is ready to do. In fact, it took Shawn 10 years (and the Great Recession) to do it with his own business.
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If you see a story that business owners should know about, hit reply and send me the link. If you got something out of this email, you can click the heart symbol, you can click the comment icon below, and you can share it with a friend. Thanks for reading, everyone. — Loren