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Health

Tyson To Require COVID-19 Vaccinations For All Employees

Virus Outbreak Meat Plants Lawsuit
Charlie Neibergall/AP
/
AP
In this May 1, 2020, file photo, vehicles sit outside the Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa. Civil rights attorney Tom Frerichs on Thursday June 25, 2020, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the estates of three Tyson Foods workers at its pork processing plant in Waterloo who died after contracting coronavirus. The lawsuit alleges the company knowingly put employees at risk during an outbreak and lied to keep them on the job. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Tyson Foods has announced it will require all of its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 1.

The company said the new requirement comes as new, highly-contagious coronavirus variants like the delta variant are now widespread and nearly all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are linked to those who are unvaccinated.

Additionally, Tyson said it will offer a $200 cash incentive to frontline workers who are fully vaccinated.

According to a memo from Tyson CEO Donnie King, less than half of the company's national workforce has been vaccinated.

"We did not take this decision lightly. We have spent months encouraging our team members to get vaccinated," King wrote.

Tyson spokesperson Derek Burleson said in an email to IPR that nearly 60 percent of Tyson's 11,000 employees in Iowa have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The company will require all employees in leadership positions to be vaccinated by Sept. 24, those who work in offices by Oct. 1 and all other workers by Nov. 1. New hires will be required to be vaccinated before they begin work.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), a union that represents 24,000 Tyson workers nationwide, opposed the requirement, saying businesses should negotiate their vaccine policies directly with frontline workers.

"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 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."

King said in his memo that Tyson workers who are part of a union will be subject to the results of union bargaining regarding COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

Meat processing plants experienced some of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks last year, prompting a federal investigation and several wrongful death lawsuits, including one alleging Waterloo plant managers took bets on how many workers would get sick.

According to state health department data, five Tyson plants in Iowa had outbreaks affecting thousands of workers.

Last week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials announced they had updated guidance to recommend people who live in counties with substantial or high community spread wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

Tyson is one of the first large employers to announce a COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

Last month, Michigan-based Trinity Health announced it will require vaccinations for all employees, affecting seven MercyOne locations in Iowa.