Coronavirus, COVID-19

Tyson Foods to Mandate COVID Vaccines, Will Other Food Companies Follow?

By Maria Fontanazza
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Coronavirus, COVID-19

Union representatives are concerned over the fact that the vaccines have not received full FDA approval. Companies continue to grapple with labor shortages.

In a controversial move, Tyson Foods is mandating that all of its U.S. employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The company is requiring that the leadership team be vaccinated by September 24, office workers by October 1, and frontline employees by November 1. However, the mandate is “subject to ongoing discussions with locations represented by unions”, according to the company website.

Tyson Foods, along with other meat processors, has been plagued with COVID-19 outbreaks during the course of the pandemic. In December the company went as far as naming its first chief medical officer, a new role to help promote health, safety and wellness.

“We did not take this decision lightly. We have spent months encouraging our team members to get vaccinated – today, under half of our team members are,” stated Donnie King, president & CEO of Tyson Foods, in a company memo titled, “Our Next Step in the Fight Against the Pandemic”. Half of U.S. employees equates to 56,000 workers. Frontline employees who are fully vaccinated will receive $200.

A union representing Tyson employees, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), is concerned over the fact that the company is requiring vaccination before FDA has provided full approval of any COVID-19 vaccine. “We believe the FDA must provide full approval of the vaccines and help address some of the questions and concerns that workers have,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone 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.”

UFCW also released the following figures on COVID-19 infections, exposures and deaths nationwide among its union members:

  • 482 frontline worker deaths and at least 96,600 frontline workers infected or exposed
  • 197 grocery worker deaths and at least 43,300 grocery workers infected or exposed
  • 132 meatpacking worker deaths and 22,400 meatpacking workers infected or exposed
  • 67 food processing worker deaths and 13,100 food processing workers infected or exposed

Will other companies in the industry follow suit?

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Maria Fontanazza, Food Safety Tech

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