Tyson’s president and CEO Donnie King wrote that in response to the new and more dangerous strains of COVID in circulation, the company would require all U.S. workers to take the vaccine.
Tyson Foods has struggled with COVID outbreaks in its meat processing facilities, but told CCJ note an increasing demand from shippers, especially those with food-grade freight, for vaccinated drivers.
Tyson will require all in-officer workers to be vaccinated by October 1, all other workers by November 1, and all new hires before their start date. Only union workers will be spared from the mandate for now, as Tyson will bargain with the union on that issue directly.
Tyson, which employs more than 1,300 active truck drivers in one of the largest private fleets in the U.S., offered frontline workers a $200 incentive to verify their vaccination status.
Tyson’s move follows other shippers requesting vaccinated drivers. A fleet executive at a mid-sized regional carrier said a shipper had asked for vaccinated drivers only. A second source asked to remain anonymous to avoid jeopardizing their business dealings showed CCJ a contract from a shipper that said drivers must have their vaccination status on file with HR to avoid wearing masks on the premises.
“We haul a lot of food-grade product,” the source said. “A lot of our customers have requirements in general, like more stringent health and safety requirements for drivers, so there are really strict rules about who can be in their facilities and what PPE they have to have on.”
In the case of Tyson, it’s clear that drivers who refuse the vaccine and aren’t protected by union bargaining will have to look for work elsewhere.
“We had to suspend a driver last week because he was noncompliant with a shipper’s mask policy, but in their mask policy it stated that if the driver took their proof of vaccination to HR, the driver would be exempt from mask wearing,” the executive said.