Growing list of local employers requiring COVID vaccine for patrons, employees

Last updated on August 26th, 2021 at 02:58 pm

Milwaukee Film and Bounce Milwaukee are among a growing number of local private employers to require patrons and employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The nonprofit organizer of the Milwaukee Film Festival and operator of the Oriental Theatre announced Tuesday that all visitors to the East Side theater must be fully vaccinated, 14 days after their final dose, or show a negative COVID-19 test result. The recently renovated Oriental reopened this month after being closed since spring 2020 due to COVID-19. It will soon host several screenings and events for Milwaukee Film’s Cultures & Communities Festival, scheduled for Sept. 6-12.

Bounce Milwaukee is issuing its vaccine mandate in advance of its planned Sept. 18 reopening. The indoor amusement park is requiring all guests over 12 to show proof of vaccination and wear masks inside except while dining. It has already issued a vaccine mandate for its employees.

“We recognize that vaccination and masking are the best tools we have to protect our guests and staff, and that they work in conjunction to minimize the risk of community transmission,” said Becky Cooper, owner of Bounce Milwaukee. “Although some similar businesses have been open without any constraints or safety measures, we feel it’s our responsibility to provide the safest possible environment for all our guests, especially with children under 12 not yet eligible for the vaccine.”

Bounce Milwaukee co-owner Ryan Clancy likened the requirements to food safety measures.

“Just as we welcome kitchen and safety inspections, we are proud to set a high standard for health measures,” he said. “In the absence of consistent mask or vaccine mandates on the local or state level, it falls to individual businesses to model these best practices to keep us all safe.”

Area music venue operators, such as The Pabst Theater Group – which runs Pabst Theater, Riverside Theater, Turner Hall Ballroom and The Back Room at Colectivo – and Summerfest operator Milwaukee World Festival Inc. announced earlier this month that ticket holders are required to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test.

Meanwhile, some local large corporate employers, such as ManpowerGroup and Molson Coors, are also implementing vaccine requirements.

ManpowerGroup is requiring proof of vaccination for anyone entering its Milwaukee headquarters and will require all ManpowerGroup employees to be vaccinated by Oct. 4.

Molson Coors is requiring its corporate and sales employees and visitors to its offices to be vaccinated. The requirement doesn’t apply to employees in its breweries or distribution and manufacturing facilities.

A spokesperson with SEIU Local 1, which represents about 1,200 members in the Milwaukee area, including security guards and janitors who clean corporate offices and buildings in downtown Milwaukee, said it has “strongly urged” members and their families to get vaccinated, but it is advocating for employers to meet with the union before they implement a vaccine mandate for its employees.

“While we recognize that the law gives employers the right to mandate vaccinations except in cases of religious or medical exemption, employers must meet with the union to bargain over the issue and the effects of such a mandate,” said Angela Peña, spokesperson for SEIU Local 1.

Area health care organizations led the charge on requiring employees to get vaccinated, with all major Milwaukee hospital systems announcing their mandates in late July and early this month.

Vivent Health, previously known as the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, notified its staff in October 2020 that vaccines would be mandated once approved by the Food & Drug Administration. Vivent Health president and CEO Mike Gifford implored other employers to take similar action.

“We’ve had more than a year to consider this decision, the time for deliberation is far past us,” he said.

The city of Milwaukee announced Tuesday it will require general city employees, including temporary employees and interns, to get the COVID vaccine by Oct. 29.

The city’s vaccine mandate followed the FDA’s formal approval of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday.

“We have an obligation to provide a safe workplace for all our employees, and a vaccinated workforce is part of that,” said Mayor Tom Barrett.

The mandate applies to the city’s roughly 3,000 employees, “well over half” of whom have already been vaccinated, Barrett said Tuesday.

It does not apply to union-represented city employees, including public safety employees.

Employees who don’t get vaccinated will face an initial unpaid suspension for up to 30 days. If they don’t comply after that, they will be fired.

“I think what you’re seeing here in the city is an example of what you’re seeing locally and throughout the nation as more and more employers, public and private, are now determined to do everything we can from a safety standpoint and health standpoint to end this pandemic,” Barrett said.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said Tuesday he is in discussion with the county officials about policy options to increase vaccination rates among county employees. He said a vaccine mandate “is not off the table.”

“We are considering all our options,” Crowley said, noting county employees work with some of the most vulnerable populations in the community.

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Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits and education for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism. In her free time, Lauren enjoys hiking, kayaking, and seeing live music.

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