Tyson Foods Will Require Vaccinations for All Employees
By: Sydney Sheffield
Tyson Foods, the second-largest producer and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork products will require all U.S. employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Since this announcement in late July, over 5,400 additional employees have received their first shot. The company is giving office workers until October 1st and plant employees until November 1st. In total, over 60,000 of the 120,000 employees are vaccinated.
“It is abundantly clear that getting vaccinated is the single most effective thing we can do to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities,” CEO Donnie King said in a memo to employees. Tyson Foods is incentivizing workers with a $200 bonus to do so, on top of the already established policy of providing up to four hours of pay for getting vaccinated outside of work.
The United Food and Commercial Workers, representing a portion of Tyson employees, states that they will be meeting with Tyson to ensure the employee’s rights are protected. “We believe the FDA must provide full approval of the vaccines and help address some of the questions and concerns that workers have,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement. “Additionally, employers should provide paid time off so that their essential workers can receive the vaccine without having to sacrifice their pay and can rest as needed while their body adjusts to the vaccine and strengthens their immune system to fight off the virus.”
Not everyone is happy about the mandate. Some employees in West Tennessee have taken to the streets in protest of the policy. “I wish the governor could stop it,” said Lee Doughten, a maintenance worker at a Tyson plant. “We were once essential workers, and now we are expendable.” Tennessee State Representative Rusty Grills agrees with Doughten, stating, “I am 100% for vaccines for the health of the community, but I don’t think anyone should be forced to take something in their body against their will.”
Tyson Foods is not a stranger to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company was forced to temporarily shut down several plants due to high infection rates. A Tyson plant in Waterloo, Iowa made news when seven of the plant managers were fired for creating a betting ring on the number of workers infected with COVID-19. Earlier this year, it was released that Tyson Foods is also being sued for misleading stakeholders about COVID-19 protocols.
In the press release stating the vaccine mandate, Tyson details actions the company has taken due to recent struggles. “Tyson Foods has spent more than $700 million related to COVID-19, including on efforts to combat its spread, such as buying masks, face shields, and temperature scanners, installing protective barriers, and providing on-site testing and vaccinations. It also partnered with an independent medical provider to bring medical services on-site, hired an additional 200 nurses and its first Chief Medical Officer. In addition, Tyson Foods has invested countless hours educating our team members, in dozens of languages, about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination.”