Two Cheers for Tyson

Aug. 4, 2021

Tyson Foods has had enough of the carrot-only approach to getting its workforce vaccinated. Now it’s bringing out the stick.

Tyson Foods has had enough of the carrot-only approach to getting its workforce vaccinated. Now it’s bringing out the stick.

Tyson announced Aug. 3, in a memo from CEO Donnie King, that all employees, including floor workers, will have to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 1 if they want to keep their jobs.

The company isn’t abandoning the carrot; workers will still get a $200 bonus for vaccinations. But the company estimates that less than half its workforce of 56,000 has been fully vaccinated, and it evidently concluded it was time to get tough.

Good for Tyson.

Considering the awful problems that Tyson has suffered, along with every other meatpacker, during the pandemic, it was clear that something had to give. An estimated 39 Tyson workers have died of COVID, and the company is fighting lawsuits related to COVID outbreaks in its plants. It’s a bad situation, and it’s no wonder Tyson has run out of patience with vaccine resistance.

Understand, it’s not like Tyson Foods has collectively been a bunch of perfect little angels during the pandemic. One of the lawsuits charges that a manager at the plant in Waterloo, Iowa, organized a pool to bet on how many plant workers would get COVID – while other plant managers were downplaying the severity of the outbreak.

But Tyson is trying to clean up its act. Those managers got fired. Tyson started offering vaccines at its plants, and incentives to get them.

But if staying alive isn’t enough incentive for someone, they probably won’t care about a $200 bonus. So Tyson is basically telling them: Don’t want the vaccine? Then go catch COVID somewhere else.

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