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Biden’s vaccine mandate ‘was just a bridge too far’: U.S. Hispanic Business Council CEO

Javier Palomarez, President and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Business Council, joins Yahoo Finance Live to explain how the Supreme Court's vaccine mandate decision is a positive for Hispanic business owners still struggling to find competent workers amid the labor shortage.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Welcome back. Our next guest says the Supreme Court's decision this week to block President Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers is a victory for the Hispanic business community. Joining us is Javier Palomarez, President and CEO of the US Hispanic Business Council.

Javier, welcome back to the show. Good to see you. So why do you say that? Why do you see this high court decision as a victory for the Hispanic community?

JAVIER PALOMAREZ: You know, Alexis, as you know, our association represents the interest of the 4 and 1/2 million Hispanic-owned firms in this country that collectively contribute over $750 billion to the American economy. And despite all of the challenges in the pandemic, we remain resolute and energized trying to make a go of it here in 2022.

We're in touch with the White House constantly and we realize that they're working very hard to provide us the resources to battle the pandemic. And we're very appreciative of their work and their effort. And it appears to be working.

From our estimation right now, 80% of Hispanic adults have received a vaccination. And in the past month, there was a 27% increase in the number of Hispanics who received their booster. On this issue-- on this issue, we agree with the United States Supreme Court.

Our association of privately-owned businesses believes that we should have the right to run our own businesses as we see fit. And while we certainly appreciate all of the effort of the White House, and we understand and appreciate the motivation, this was just a bridge too far.

We do not want to politicize this thing. We have been supportive of the Biden administration. And certainly, we were supportive of the passage and got very involved in trying to get the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, or the infrastructure bill, passed. We were delighted when that happened.

But right now, our number one challenge is finding and retaining qualified employees. To put this additional mandate upon us is just untenable. And we simply had to speak up, and so here we are.

KARINA MITCHELL: Sir, thanks for coming on. You know, in your note, you say entrepreneurship and innovation will get us out of this pandemic not mandates. But then I'm sure your businesses in your council have been affected by Omicron where businesses have had to shut down because they want to keep their staff safe, as well as the people that come into them.

So wouldn't having a vaccine help that situation? And if it was regulated to make it easier and less confusing, then isn't that a plus?

JAVIER PALOMAREZ: It is a plus. And we certainly understand the motivation behind what's transpired here. And that's why we want to be very careful to make sure that this does not get politicized. But, listen, I'm speaking to people on the ground.

If you can imagine the United States map, beginning in the Northeast, I just spoke to Carlos Medina of the New Jersey Hispanic Chamber. He, and his chamber, and their business owners stand with us in opposition. Go all the way down to Florida-- Julio Fuentes from the Florida Hispanic Chamber, him, his chamber, and all their members stand in opposition along with us.

Go to Texas, Massib Yarialdi, the vice chair of the Texas Association of business, him, their members, their employees, their businesses stand with us in opposition. In California, Tide Alberto of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in Illinois, Jaime a DePaulo of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce-- all of their businesses, all of their members stand with us.

We understand the gravity of it. No one is feeling this more than we are, believe me. But our number one challenge, again, is finding and retaining employees. To put this additional burden upon us is simply untenable. There is no way that we can get into the policing of who's gotten a vaccination.

What we have put in place on our own and is working for us is strict regulation, strict policy within the company to ensure that everybody is being encouraged and incented to get their vaccination. Secondly, a rigorous testing protocol. And then thirdly, putting instruments and policies in place that will help mitigate the spread, and localizing it, and quickly removing it from the workplace.

That is working for us. We understand, again, the motivation and appreciate it. But at this point, it simply was too much for our business owners. And I'm hearing this all over the country, that all these businesses and these business owners stand with us in opposition of this. And this is why we felt that we had to speak up.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You alluded to it just a moment ago, but the numbers bear that the Hispanic community has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Can you briefly just break down for us how so?

JAVIER PALOMAREZ: Well, you know, we are catching up. And a great deal of credit goes to the White House for their efforts in understanding our challenges. As we stand right now, as I mentioned earlier, 80% of adult Hispanics have received a vaccination. But that compares to 83% and 84% in the African-American and Caucasian counterparts.

So we're slightly behind, but catching up. And a lot of that catching up is happening at the very local level. The White House has done a great job of keeping us abreast of what they're doing, providing the resources, getting all the way down into the communities to make sure that wherever possible, we are allowing people and encouraging people to get their vaccination.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right. Javier Palomarez, President and CEO of the US Hispanic Business Council, thank you.