Nike employees who work at the corporate headquarters in Beaverton will need to be vaccinated before their planned return to work in January, according to an internal memo from the company.

In recent weeks, major U.S. companies from Tyson Chicken to Alaska Airlines have announced that their employees must get their COVID-19 vaccine, secure an exemption or risk being fired. 

While similar vaccine mandates are in place in Oregon’s public and health care sectors, the state’s largest private employers have remained relatively quiet in the wake of President Biden’s September 9 announcement that all companies with more than 100 employees would need to ensure that their employees were either vaccinated or tested weekly; failure to comply can mean stiff financial penalties. 

Now, though, there are signs that the dam is breaking in Oregon, too. 

Beaverton-based Nike, the state’s fourth largest employer with almost 14,000 in-state jobs, has told its employees that those who work in its corporate offices, studios, and showrooms will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, in advance of a planned return to the workplace on January 10, 2022. 

According to a memo reviewed by Portland Monthly, and confirmed by several employees, Nike employees at retail stores, manufacturing plants, and distribution centers aren’t yet subject to the vaccine mandate while the company considers vaccination and/or testing requirements as the federal government rolls out more compliance information for Biden’s order. This is similar to other corporate rollouts, at places including Walmart and McDonalds, where frontline workers have so far not been subject to mandates.

A spokesperson for Nike released the following statement on Monday afternoon: "Supporting the effort to bring people safely back to their workplaces in January, we will require all office-based employees in the U.S. to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19."

Meanwhile, Intel, the state’s largest employer with 21,000 employees, has not yet announced plans to respond to Biden’s orders, though they have offered $350 bonuses to all employees who get the vaccine. 

And though Columbia Sportswear, based in Washington County, has not officially announced a mandate for its employees, CEO Tim Boyle has signaled his support for such a move, telling Yahoo Finance last week that, “Frankly, we’re thrilled that the playing field is being leveled.… We had been talking about installing mandates across our company. This is really the only way to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control.” 

Ultimately, Biden’s orders may apply to 80 million Americans; the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration is still ironing out the details of the rule, including how enforcement will work. Final details are expected later this fall.  

In the meantime, vaccine mandate rollouts have been bumpy in some spots in the public and health care sectors in Oregon. Some employers have seen near universal compliance—Portland Public Schools, for example, has reported that 95 percent of district staff are vaccinated, and another 1 percent are in progress with their vaccination series. At Legacy Health Services, as Oregon Public Broadcasting reported, 98 percent of medical staff is vaccinated—but the health care system had to place some unvaccinated staff without medical or religious exemptions on leave last week, temporarily closing a handful of urgent care and lab locations.  

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