Tyson, UFCW: 96% of employees now vaccinated

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FILE – In this July 30, 2001, file photo, a sign marks the entrance to Tyson Foods headquarters in Springdale, Ark. Tyson Foods says it is raising wages to combat absenteeism and worker turnover at its plants as U.S. demand for chicken soars. The Springdale, Arkansas-based company said Monday, May 10, 2021, that absentee rates are around 50% higher than they were before the pandemic. (AP Photo/April L. Brown, File)

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which includes 26,000 Tyson food workers, announced the vaccination of over 96 percent of its employees on Tuesday, Oct. 26 according to a press release by UFCW.

The union includes 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers and announced its vaccination success following the recent deal with Tyson on a vaccine mandate that included the first national U.S. agreement to provide paid sick leave to meatpacking workers on September 2021.

As the largest union for Tyson workers across the country, UFCW is determined to keep all our members safe from this deadly pandemic, and ensure they are rewarded for their sacrifices. Working together, the UFCW and Tyson set a new standard with this vaccine mandate and have proved what’s possible when we listen to workers and negotiate the implementation of vaccination mandates fairly and responsibly. We urge every company, across this country, to do what is right by their frontline workers and work cooperatively with their unions and employees to help end this pandemic and keep all of America’s essential workers and their families safe.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone

Tyson Foods President and CEO Donnie King issued the following note to frontline employees:

Throughout the pandemic, your health and safety has been our top priority. We have used every tool at our disposal to help keep you safe. And getting vaccinated is the single most effective tool to protect you, your families, and our communities against the COVID-19 virus. That’s why we decided, in August, to require all U.S. team members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 1. 

“We couldn’t be happier to let you know that, as of today, over 96% of our active team members are vaccinated – or nearly 60,000 more than when we made the announcement on August 3. This is an incredible result – not only for our company, but for your families and our communities across the country. And it’s due entirely to all of you: we hit this number thanks to the many, many thousands of individual conversations. To the laser focus of our operational leadership, health and safety and HR teams – and in particular, the leaders at our facilities. And not least, it is thanks to the dedication and courage of thousands of our team members, who stepped up and signed up to keep themselves, their families and their communities better protected against this deadly virus. 

“Like many of you, I have worked at this company for decades, and I would be hard-pressed to think of a time when we came together as we did over the past few weeks. We did this together, and we should all be incredibly proud. Thank you, to all of you.

“I have also received many notes from team members who have helped convince others in their family, and in their community, to get vaccinated. Wherever you live, if you are one of these people, know that you have made your community safer. Thank you. Has this made a difference in the health and safety of our team members? Absolutely. We’ve seen a significant decline in the number of active cases, companywide. 

“I’d also like to say to those who remain unvaccinated – this is your choice, and we respect that choice. If you change your mind and want to rejoin Tyson – let us know. Our doors are open. The pandemic is not over, and we haven’t yet won the race. But we know we’re in it together, and our future is bright. Once again, and on behalf of our entire leadership team – thank you.”

On August 3, 2021, Tyson Foods announced a vaccine mandate that would require COVID-19 vaccinations for its U.S. workforce by November 1, 2021 and in Sept. 2021 UFCW secured a vaccine mandate deal with Tyson, which employees could use to earn up to 20 hours of paid sick leave.

According to the release, UFCW is calling for similar paid sick leave policies from all companies across the industry to ensure “more frontline workers can get the vaccine without fear of losing a paycheck.”

After the UFCW called on the CDC and governors to prioritize workers for early vaccine access in December 2020, the company launched a national campaign, hosting vaccine clinics in California, Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, and other states, according to the release.

The following list, provided by UFCW, details the latest COVID numbers among the union’s members nationwide:

  • 483 frontline worker deaths and at least 93, 900 frontline workers infected or exposed 
  • 198 grocery worker deaths and at least 43,900 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

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