Tyson Foods workers get paid sick leave; 75% vaccinated

<p><p>NEW YORK – Tyson Foods is offering its front-line workers paid sick leave for the first time, part of an agreement that secured union support for its mandate that all U.S. employees get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.</p></p><p><p>The meatpacking giant said 90,000 – or 75% – of its 120,000 U.S. workers have now been vaccinated, up from 50% when it <a href=”https://apnews.com/article/business-health-coronavirus-pandemic-30554d732abb6b0654b2cec44d847f08″>announced the mandate</a> on Aug. 3.</p></p><p><p>Workers have until Nov. 1 to get vaccinated, but there are exemptions for medical and religious reasons under the agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.</p></p><p><p>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.</p></p><p><p>Many companies have taken aggressive steps to encourage workers to get the vaccines while avoiding mandates that could worsen a labor shortage.</p></p><p><p>Under the agreement, Tyson workers can earn up to 20 hours of paid sick leave.</p></p><p><p>They will also get paid time off to get the vaccine and additional time off for any side effects.</p></p><p><p>The UFCW and the RWDSU represent 26,000 Tyson workers, but the Springdale, Arkansas-based company said paid sick leave would extend to all employees.</p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>The UFCW said it was the union’s first time reaching a national agreement to provide paid sick leave for meatpacking workers.</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>“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.”</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said the agreement includes a job exchange plan that will allow employees who don’t get the vaccines for medical and religious regions to work “in areas with low interpersonal contact.”</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>Workplace advocates have cited inadequate paid sick leave as a key barrier preventing low-income workers from getting the vaccine.</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>A Harvard <a href=”https://shift.hks.harvard.edu/half-of-service-sector-workers-are-not-yet-vaccinated-for-covid-19-what-gets-in-the-way”>survey</a> of service and retail workers found that nearly 60% of workers with access to paid sick leave had been vaccinated by May, compared to less than 50% of workers without that benefit.</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>The study, which surveyed 9,000 workers at large companies from March 2021 to May 2021, also found that more than 60% of workers who got time off to get the shots, or to recover from side effects, were vaccinated.</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>That compared to 39% of workers who received no support from employers for getting the vaccine.</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>Tyson Foods also said that fully vaccinated employees who test positive for COVID will get up to two weeks of paid leave for the next six months.</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>That benefit will not extend to employees who have religious or medical exemptions.</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>The company announced several other new benefits, including a week of paid vacation for new hires after six months.</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>“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.</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>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.</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>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.</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>But employers have increasingly <a href=”https://apnews.com/article/business-health-coronavirus-pandemic-6a0fdfb54bf10a7bdffcee513adb1ea2″>adopted tougher vaccine policies</a> since the Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>Some labor unions have opposed vaccine mandates, while others have insisted that any requirements be negotiated with workers.</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>“This vaccine agreement with Tyson shows just how critical it is for companies to meet with unions before making unilateral mandates,” Appelbaum said.</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>UFCW International Vice President Mark Lauritsen said the Tyson workers who fail to meet the Nov. 1 deadline for getting vaccinated will be considered to have “severed their employment.”</span></p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”>However, he said the agreement allows those workers to return to the company with full pay and seniority if they get the shot later within 180 days.</span></p></p>