Tyson Foods requiring all 139,000 workers to get vaccinated

Tyson Foods is requiring its entire U.S. workforce of more than 139,000 to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The move by the nation’s largest meat producer comes in a bid to curtail surging coronavirus infections that shut down many processing facilities last year.

Senior corporate executives at Tyson must be vaccinated by September 24, in-office workers by October 1 and all other employees by November 1, the company announced Tuesday. Less than half, or more than 56,000, of Tyson workers have been vaccinated, according to the company. 

Tyson is offering $200 to frontline workers who get vaccinated as part of its effort to fully vaccinate its workforce, according to the company, whose brands include Ball Park, Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm. 

Plagued by outbreaks, labor shortages and absenteeism due to COVID-19, Tyson and competitors in the meat industry have struggled to get their hundreds of thousands of employees immunized. They’ve also dealt with workers dying of COVID-19 and face lawsuits filed by some families alleging that the company failed to take adequate measures to protect employees.

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“We now feel the rising number of new cases across the U.S. warrants advanced clinical strategies — including requiring vaccinations,” Dr. Daniel Castillo, chief medical officer and group president at Matrix Medical, hired by Tyson to aid its efforts, said in a statement. 

At least 50,000 COVID-19 cases have been linked to meat and poultry processing facilities in 38 states, according to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. That includes at least 259 reported worker deaths in at least 67 plants in 29 states, the independent nonprofit media firm found.

Tyson joins a growing number of major U.S. employers to recently announce vaccination requirements for workers as the Delta variant causes COVID-19 infections to soar. 

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Microsoft on Tuesday said it would require proof of vaccination for all employees, vendors and visitors to its U.S. offices starting in September, echoing steps taken by Google and Facebook, according to the Associated Press. 

Walmart, the country’s biggest private employer, said last week that all campus office associates and those who work in multiple facilities must be vaccinated by October 4. Disney on Friday said it is requiring all salaried and nonunion hourly workers in the country to be fully vaccinated within the next 60 days. 

Other companies imposing vaccination requirements include asset management giant BlackRock, Lyft, Netflix, Saks Fifth Avenue and Uber, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

And on Wall Street, where most firms are taking a firm stance in hopes of preventing the virus from spreading at their offices, Morgan Stanley is requiring not only that employees but also clients and visitors certify that they’ve gotten their shots. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.