According to Tyson CEO Donnie King, this approach is the best way for the company to protect its workforce's health as new strains of COVID-19 emerge. In a memo, he noted that the decision was not taken lightly but less than half of their team members have been vaccinated so far.
He added that they instituted this measure “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 announcement makes Tyson the biggest U.S. food company to put such a mandate in place. They will offer fully vaccinated team members working on the frontline $200 as an incentive. Employees will be allowed to request medical and religious exemptions, however.
They join a growing number of companies that are mandating vaccinations among their workforce, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix and Morgan Stanley bank. However, most of the company mandates being seen thus far have applied to corporate workers. Industries where workers tend to have greater exposure to customers and coworkers in their daily operations, such as retail, manufacturing and restaurants, tend to be avoiding such mandates for the most part.
Gartner Chief of HR Research Brian Kropp told CNN that the differences in who these mandates are applying to is largely down to a desire to get corporate locations back up and running by allaying employees' fears of being in unsafe workplaces.
With the tight labor market being seen right now, there is a fear that hourly workers will simply quit instead of getting vaccinated right at a time when hiring workers is already quite challenging. In addition, turnover is much higher among hourly workers than those in white collar positions, which means it is less practical for employers to impose such mandates.
Instead of turning to mandates, some companies in this category, such as McDonald's, Home Depot and Target, have been requiring employees to wear masks in their stores regardless of their vaccination status.
Walmart, the country's biggest private employer, recently announced that all of its corporate employees and regional managers based in the U.S. must be vaccinated by October 4. However, this mandates does not apply to all of its workers, who number more than 1.6 million. Store and warehouse workers are being encouraged to get vaccinated by the promise of a $150 bonus, but they are not being required to do so.
Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg said: "Our approach with our large number of associates in frontline facilities has to been to inform them, encourage them, make it easy and to reward them financially for choosing to receive the vaccine."
The idea behind mandating the vaccine among leadership is to set an example that they hope will influence their frontline workers.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Tyson Foods had to shut down some of its meat plants because of outbreaks involving thousands of workers, which placed a tremendous strain on the American meat supply. More than 132 meatpacking workers belonging to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union have died from COVID-19 as of July 30, the union reports. The company is also facing lawsuits filed by some employees’ families claiming the company did not protect them adequately.
Nevertheless, the union's president, Marc Perrone, said in an interview that some members are "nervous about the vaccine." Now it looks like they are going to be forced to choose between getting a risky vaccine and providing for their families.
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