Meat processing giant Tyson is one of the first major employers of frontline workers to require all of its American employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as the coronavirus resurfaces.
Meat processing company Tyson Foods will require all of its employees in the United States to be vaccinated against COVID-19, becoming one of the first major employers of frontline workers to do so amid the resurgence of the coronavirus.
Tyson, one of the world’s largest food companies, said Tuesday that members of its leadership team should be vaccinated by September 24 and the rest of its office staff by October 1. He said the details are under negotiation with unions.
US officials said Monday that coronavirus cases, along with hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus, have increased in the past week, even as vaccination rates have increased as concerns grow about the highly contagious Delta type of virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are, on average, more than 66,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day in the United States, an increase of 64 percent from the previous week and above the peak identified in the summer of 2020.
Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our team members. We are taking the next step in the fight against this pandemic and are requesting that all members of the US team be fully vaccinated by November 1, subject to discussions with the sites represented by unions. https://t.co/5F1hDkZef8 pic.twitter.com/PK9A0EveZd
– Tyson Foods (@tyson Foods) August 3, 2021
Tyson said less than half of Tyson’s U.S. workforce — about 56,000 employees — have been vaccinated since February, when the company began organizing the first of more than 100 vaccination events.
The Springfield, Arkansas company plans to continue holding events and offer a $200 bounty to all frontline workers who receive the coronavirus vaccine.
In a memo to staff, CEO Donny King expressed concern about the emergence of the most contagious delta variant and explained that the vaccine requirement was needed to overcome persistent reluctance to get vaccinated.
We did not take this decision lightly. We’ve spent months encouraging our team members to get vaccinated – today, less than half of our team members are there, King wrote. “We are taking this step today because nothing is more important than the health and safety of our team members, and we thank them for the work they do every day to help us feed this country and our world.”
Tyson, whose brands include Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm, has faced outbreaks of the deadly virus in its factories and faced lawsuits from the families of some workers. In a press release, the company said the number of infections at its plant is currently low after the company spent $700 million on worker protection efforts.
US private employers are increasingly imposing vaccine mandates on workers, frustrated by declining vaccine rates despite months of information campaigns, bonuses, furloughs and other incentives for people to get vaccines. Other employers, including the federal government and some state and local authorities, require that unvaccinated workers undergo weekly testing.
But in the private sector, many of the mandates related to vaccines have come from companies mostly office workers who have already been largely vaccinated.
Many companies that rely on a low-income workforce, including Amazon, Walmart and major grocery chains, have so far refused to issue vaccines to frontline workers, in part to avoid fueling the employment crisis and ongoing worker turnover. Many unions are also vehemently opposed to vaccine mandates for their workers.
The spread of the delta variant is also prompting some companies to reimpose mask mandates for workers — even those who have been vaccinated — in line with new guidelines from the CDC.
Regular auto workers at three companies — General Motors, Ford and Stellantes — will have to return to wearing masks regardless of their vaccination status, according to a decision announced Tuesday by a task force of company representatives and United Auto Workers. The move comes just under a month after vaccinated union workers were allowed to shed their masks.