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Tyson vaccine mandate gives first paid sick leave for meatpacking workers

JACKSON, Miss. — United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the union for 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers across North America, including 5,700 Mississippi frontline workers statewide at facilities like Tyson plants in Carthage and Forest, announced the first national U.S. agreement to provide paid sick leave to meatpacking workers. Click here to view press release online.

UFCW secured the deal for Tyson workers in Mississippi and nationwide to be able to earn up to 20 hours of paid sick leave as part of the union’s negotiations with Tyson over its new vaccine mandate. Under this new agreement, the Tyson vaccine mandate will now provide medical and religious exemptions where appropriate. As the largest union for American meatpacking workers, UFCW is calling for similar paid sick leave policies from all companies to ensure all frontline workers can get the vaccine without fear of losing a paycheck.

In Mississippi and across the country, more than 90,000 (over 75 percent) of Tyson workers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Over 30,000 Tyson workers have been vaccinated since the company announced its new vaccine mandate in early August.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement: “As the largest union for Tyson workers across the country, UFCW’s first priority is to keep these brave men and women safe on the job as the COVID-19 Delta surge continues. Since the vaccines were first approved, UFCW has played a leading role in helping to vaccinate many of its 1.3 million essential workers in meatpacking plants, grocery stores, and other frontline businesses.

“Today, UFCW is pleased to join Tyson in announcing the first national agreement to provide paid sick leave to American meatpacking workers. Paid sick leave is critical to ensuring workers can get vaccinated without losing a paycheck.

As part of this deal, UFCW has ensured that Tyson’s vaccine mandate will be implemented fairly and protect the rights of workers by allowing for medical and religious exemptions where appropriate. 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.

“Vaccine mandates, like all COVID workplace safety policies, must be negotiated with workers to build the trust and strong consensus needed for these safeguards to be effective. This historic agreement helps to ensure policies like paid leave are not just helping us increase vaccinations during the pandemic, but are also permanent improvements that strengthen these jobs and protect these workers for years to come.”

BACKGROUND:

UFCW has been one of the strongest champions of vaccines for America’s essential workers. In December 2020, UFCW called on the CDC and governors in all 50 states to prioritize these workers for early vaccine access.

In early 2021, UFCW launched a national vaccine campaign, hosting community vaccine clinics in California, Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, and many other states to help essential workers get vaccinated and protect their families.

UFCW organized digital vaccine education townhalls with Dr. Anthony Fauci as well as health experts from the White House, CDC, and FDA to answer questions from workers hesitant about the vaccine, with a focus on Latino and African-American workers who have been among the hardest hit by COVID.

COVID NUMBERS: In the latest data compiled, UFCW confirmed that among the union’s members nationwide, there have already been at least:

483 frontline worker deaths and at least 93, 900 frontline workers infected or exposed

198 grocery worker deaths and at least 43,900 grocery workers infected or exposed

132 meatpacking worker deaths and 22,400 meatpacking workers infected or exposed

67 food processing worker deaths and 13,100 food processing workers infected or exposed