Tyson mandates vaccines for all employees including Shelbyville

REGIONAL NEWS | Shelbyville — On Tuesday, Tyson Foods announced via press release that it would be mandating COVID-19 vaccines for all employees including those at the nearby chicken-processing plant located at 901 West Jackson Street in Shelbyville.

According to the release, all U.S. office staff must be fully vaccinated by no later than October 1 and all other workers, including plant employees will have until November 1. Any new hires will be required to show proof of vaccination prior to their start date.

According to the press release, this makes Tyson Foods the largest U.S. food company to require COVID-19 vaccinations for its entire workforce. Tyson employees around 120,000 people in the U.S. including around 1,000 folks in Bedford County. Prior to the mandate, the company estimated that close to half of their employees were vaccinated.

According to COVID Act Now, Bedford County ranks 71 of 95 Tennessee counties with a 27 percent fully vaccinated rate. As of Tuesday’s state numbers, Bedford County averaged 10 new confirmed cases per day.


Meatpacking plants got hit hard during the first COVID wave. Over 12,000 Tyson employees throughout the U.S. contracted the virus and the Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN) reported that 39 Tyson employees died from COVID-19. In April 2020, the Shelbyville plant shut down for several days for “deep cleaning” following an outbreak that affected nearly 80 people. Similar shut downs in the company’s Goodlettsville Plant were also required.

In that same month, the company took out a full page ad in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in which board chairman John Tyson wrote, “the food supply chain is breaking.”

In the ad, Tyson warned that “millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain” if plants shutdown because of COVID-19 continue.

According to the press release, to support efforts to fully vaccinate all team members, the company will also provide $200 to its frontline team members, subject to ongoing discussions with locations represented by unions.  Locally, the Shelbyville Plant is unionized and leadership from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) will likely ask for further concessions like paid time off to get the shot and recover from any side effects

This would be an expansion of the company’s existing policy of compensating workers for up to four hours of regular pay if they are vaccinated outside of their normal shift or through an external source.  

“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the single most effective thing we can do to protect our team members, their families and their communities,” said Dr. Claudia Coplein, Chief Medical Officer, Tyson Foods. “With rapidly rising COVID-19 case counts of contagious, dangerous variants leading to increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization among the U.S. unvaccinated population, this is the right time to take the next step to ensure a fully vaccinated workforce.” •

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