Springdale-based Tyson Foods said Tuesday (Aug. 3) that it would require its U.S. workforce to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Spokesman Derek Burleson said that mandate would affect approximately 120,000 processing plant and corporate office workers. About half of them have already received the COVID vaccine.
The company’s leadership (officers and above) must be vaccinated by Sept. 24. Employees working in an office have until Oct. 1 to receive the vaccine. All other U.S. employees are required to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1, subject to ongoing discussions with locations represented by unions. Frontline workers will receive a $200 bonus once they are vaccinated, the company said.
In response to a question regarding consequences for employees who refuse the vaccine, Burleson offered the following statement:
“We’ll continue to educate team members about the vaccinations, answer their questions and address their concerns. We’ll also consider requests from team members who asked to be exempt for medical or religious reasons, but vaccinations are a condition of employment.”
According to a company news release, Tyson Foods is the largest U.S. food company to require COVID vaccinations for its entire workforce.
“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the single most effective thing we can do to protect our team members, their families and their communities,” Tyson Foods chief medical officer Dr. Claudia Coplein said in a statement. “With rapidly rising COVID-19 case counts of contagious, dangerous variants leading to increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization among the U.S. unvaccinated population, this is the right time to take the next step to ensure a fully vaccinated workforce.”
A memo to Tyson Foods employees from President & CEO Donnie King can be found at this link.
“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,” King wrote in the memo. “We take this step today because nothing is more important than our team members’ health and safety, and we thank them for the work they do, every day, to help us feed this country and our world.”
According to the release, Tyson Foods said it had spent more than $700 million on COVID-related issues.
Tyson Foods’ announcement comes a few days after Bentonville-based Walmart Inc. said all of its market, regional and divisional employees working in multiple facilities and all campus offices must be vaccinated by Oct. 4, unless they have an approved exception.