Tyson Foods announced Tuesday that it will require its 120,000 U.S. workers to be fully vaccinated this year.
At present, less than half of the company’s employees (about 56,000) have been vaccinated. To raise that number, the company is mandating vaccinations and will pay workers a $200 bonus after they have been vaccinated.
Office workers have a deadline of October 1 to be fully vaccinated, and all other team members have until November 1. Tyson officials said exceptions to the mandate will be granted to workers with medical or religious reasons.
“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.
Preventing future cases
COVID-19 has claimed the lives of at least 132 meatpacking workers, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 24,000 Tyson workers. The nature of the job requires employees to work closely together, increasing the risk of contracting the virus.
During the early stages of the pandemic, Tyson Foods -- the largest food company in the nation -- had to temporarily shut down its meat processing plants due to outbreaks. The closures ended up causing supply chain disruptions.
"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 said. "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."
The company’s decision to require workers to be vaccinated comes one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the seven-day average of new infections exceeded last summer’s pre-vaccine peak. Health officials are focused on encouraging more people to get vaccinated in order to combat the threat of the highly contagious Delta variant, which is driving the surge in cases.