Meat plant workers at Tyson Foods rushed to get vaccinated ahead of a Nov. 1 deadline, reaching a 96 percent vaccination rate, the company said Tuesday.
The Arkansas-based meat-processing giant issued an edict on Aug. 3 that required employees to be vaccinated within three months. Some 60,000 workers who weren’t already vaccinated — or half the workforce — did so, Chief Executive Donnie King wrote in a company memo.
The poultry conglomerate was among the first large companies — and in a state that had one of the lowest vaccination rates nationwide during the summer — to mandate vaccinations as a condition of employment.
“This is an incredible result,” King wrote. “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.”
The meat packing industry was hit hard during the pandemic, as workers who stand close to each other on the assembly line, were more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections. And many plants were closed for a period of time or operating at a low percentage of their their fully capacity as they implemented safety protocols. Still, many workers opted not to work instead.
King said education efforts by the company were a major factor in large number of employees getting vaccinated over the past several months.
“I have also received many notes from team members who have helped convince others in their family, and in their community, to get vaccinated,” King wrote.
These efforts have resulted in “a significant decline in the number of active cases companywide,” according to the memo.
A small percentage of Tyson employees have opted not get vaccinated.
“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,” according to the memo. “Our doors are open.”
Earlier in the pandemic, the meat packing industry was accused of not protecting its workers enough, providing protective supplies and there were employee protests and walkouts despite offers of bonuses.
For the first time in its history, Tyson is also offering its plant workers paid sick leave — which was a condition by the union representing the workers for its support of the vaccination mandate.