Andrea Hsu

Omicron has left employers around the country short of workers. Sometimes very short.

At United Airlines, CEO Scott Kirby said nearly a third of the workforce called out sick on one day alone at Newark Liberty International Airport.

At MOM's Organic Market, some of its East Coast stores have had to deal with 15 out of 50 workers out on a single day.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And now I want to bring in NPR's labor and workplace correspondent Andrea Hsu, who's been listening in.

Hi, Andrea.

ANDREA HSU, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

America's entrepreneurial spirit remains strong during the pandemic.

That's the takeaway from new numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday, which found that a whopping 5.4 million new business applications were filed in 2021, surpassing the record set in 2020 of 4.4 million.

Amid a flurry of flight cancellations, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby offered a window into the staffing challenges employers are facing due to the omicron surge.

"We have about 3,000 employees who are currently positive for COVID. Just as an example, in one day alone at Newark, nearly one-third of our workforce called out sick," he wrote in a memo to employees on Tuesday.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We turn now to a story about America's workers. This year there was a fundamental shift in the balance of power between employers and the millions of people who work for them. NPR's Andrea Hsu has a look at how we got here.

New York City's strict vaccine requirements get even stricter as of Monday. Everyone 12 years old and up now has to show proof of full vaccination to dine in at restaurants, go to the movies, work out in gyms, or attend any kind of indoor performance.

For Beata Moon, a composer, pianist and teaching artist in Queens, that means she will not be able to perform a recital in February at Musica Reginae, a community concert space.

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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Some employers are desperate to find workers for the holiday season, so they're trying all sorts of things to fill positions, including hiring new workers in 30 minutes or less. NPR's Andrea Hsu has the story.

Updated December 7, 2021 at 8:16 PM ET

In what the city says is "a first in the nation measure," New York City is now mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for all private sector employers, effective Dec. 27.

As Covid cases surged over the summer, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian took action: Unvaccinated workers would have to pay an extra $200 a month for their health insurance, starting Nov. 1.

It felt less onerous than the vaccine mandate imposed on workers by rival United Airlines. But still, it was audacious.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has won the lottery to hear legal challenges to the Biden administration's vaccine rule that affects some 84 million workers.

In the fight over who has the authority to tell companies what to do when it comes to COVID-19 and workplace safety, a random drawing could play a big role in which side prevails.

A federal court in Texas has handed United Airlines a win, for now.

A group of United employees sued the airline over its policy that puts unvaccinated workers on unpaid leave if they have been granted religious or medical exemptions to its vaccine mandate. The employees said it would cause them irreparable harm.

The group, which includes two pilots, a flight attendant and an aircraft technician, had asked the court to block the policy.

Updated November 8, 2021 at 9:25 PM ET

It took just a day-and-a-half for President Biden's vaccine-or-test rule covering 84 million workers to be blocked by a federal appeals court.

Now, the Biden administration is gearing up for a fight.

Updated November 4, 2021 at 6:53 PM ET

In early September, President Biden announced he was taking steps to get more Americans vaccinated and turn the tide on COVID-19.

On Thursday, the administration rolled out two of those steps — two different vaccine rules covering more than 100 million workers.

Here are the details:

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