Tyson Foods, Hit Hard by COVID-19, Says 75 Percent of Workers Have Taken Vaccine

Tyson Foods, hit hard by COVID-19, said 75 percent of its U.S. workers are vaccinated, up from 50 percent a month ago when the company issued a vaccine mandate for all workers.

The company said 90,000 of its 120,000 U.S. workers are now vaccinated, and the mandate says employees have until November 1 to get vaccinated. An agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers grants exemptions for medical and religious reasons.

Tyson Foods is also now offering paid sick leave for its front-line workers and additional benefits, including a week of paid vacation, as part of the mandate requiring employees to be vaccinated.

"These measures are the latest examples of our ongoing efforts to make Tyson the most sought-after place to work," Johanna Söderström, Tyson Foods' executive vice president and chief human resources officer, said in a statement.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

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Tyson Foods announced that 75 percent of its U.S. workers are now vaccinated, a month after a mandate requiring vaccinations was announced. A sign reading "Now Hiring" outside a Tyson Fresh Meats production plant in Emporia, Kansas, on January 8, 2020. Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Tyson Foods, which owns the Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm brands, is among the few companies with a large front-line workforce to impose a vaccine mandate so far. Many companies have taken aggressive steps to encourage workers to get the vaccines while avoiding mandates that could worsen a labor shortage.

Under the agreement with UFCW, Tyson workers can earn up to 20 hours of paid sick leave. The UFCW represents 26,000 Tyson workers but the Springdale, Arkansas-based company said the benefit would extend to all employees.

The UFCW said it was the union's first time reaching a national agreement to provide paid sick leave for meatpacking workers.

"Paid sick leave is critical to ensuring workers can get vaccinated without losing a paycheck," UFCW Marc Perrone said in a statement. "Every company in America must follow Tyson's lead and act now to guarantee paid leave to help even more of our country's essential workers get vaccinated as soon as possible."

Workplace advocates have cited inadequate paid sick leave as a key barrier preventing low-income workers from getting the vaccine.

A Harvard survey of service and retail workers found that nearly 60 percent of workers with access to paid sick leave had been vaccinated by May, compared to less than 50 percent of workers without that benefit. The study, which surveyed 9,000 workers at large firms from March 2021 to May 2021, also found that more than 60 percent of workers who got time off to get the shots, or to recover from side effects, were vaccinated. That compared to 39 percent of workers who received no support from employers for getting the vaccine.

Tyson Foods has staged more than 100 vaccination events since February and offered $200 bonus and $6 million sweepstakes to encourage workers to get the shots.

Other companies, including Amazon and Walmart, the country's two largest private employers, have rolled out similar initiatives while stopping short of requiring the vaccines for hourly workers. But employers have increasingly adopted tougher vaccine policies since the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.