In early August, the meatpacking industry giant Tyson announced a company-wide vaccine mandate, ordering that all of its 120,000 employees must get the COVID-19 vaccine or lose their jobs. Since then, about 60,500 employees have received the vaccine, and over 96 percent of their staff is vaccinated.
“We made the decision to do the mandate, fully understanding that we were putting our business at risk,” said Donnie King, Tyson’s chief executive. “This was very painful to do.”
Tyson had to shut down facilities last year due to virus outbreaks, and before that, they faced criticism for inadequate safety measures for workers. Now, the company says it’s spent over $810 million on COVID-19 safety measures and new on-site medical services, and it hired its first chief medical officer. The vaccines were another tool to ensure the company’s uninterrupted operation.
“This was a business decision,” said Stuart Appelbaum, resident of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, which represents thousands of Tyson’s workers. “There isn’t enough of a supply of workers to take the place if a large number of workers are getting sick.”
“People who run large corporate enterprises think in two areas: What’s best for my employees and what’s best for the company to keep going?” said William Schaffner, an expert on infectious disease at Vanderbilt University. “And in this instance, the two mesh beautifully.”