“We hit this number thanks to the many, many thousands of individual conversations,” Mr. King said.
As part of its efforts, Tyson negotiated an agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents several thousand of its workers, to endorse the mandate in return for more benefits for all workers, like paid sick leave. The union’s president, Marc Perrone, applauded the vaccination efforts on Tuesday.
“Working together, the UFCW and Tyson set a new standard with this vaccine mandate, and have proved what’s possible when we listen to workers and negotiate the implementation of vaccination mandates fairly and responsibly,” Mr. Perrone said in a statement.
“We urge every company, across this country, to do what is right by their frontline workers and work cooperatively with their unions and employees to help end this pandemic and keep all of America’s essential workers and their families safe,” he added.
Tyson is offering employees religious or medical accommodations to the mandate and does not have a cutoff date for evaluating those considerations, a spokesman said. It will assess requests “based on careful consideration of the individual facts and our commitment to the safety of our employees.” Some unvaccinated employees granted exemptions, though, will be placed on leave.
“To those who remain unvaccinated — this is your choice, and we respect that choice,” Mr. King said. “If you change your mind and want to rejoin Tyson — let us know. Our doors are open.”
The results of Tyson’s vaccine mandate will be examined closely by other companies, as well as federal and local officials, as they weigh their own approaches to vaccine mandates. Last month, President Biden asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to order large employers to require vaccination against the coronavirus or weekly testing. Many companies are now preparing to move forward but have been awaiting more details.
So far, vaccine mandates have largely proven effective. United Airlines, which said in August that it would require all employees to provide proof of vaccination, recently announced that more than 99 percent of its work force was vaccinated. In California, health care employers have reported vaccination rates of 90 percent or higher.
Legal experts generally say companies have the right to make vaccine mandates, but there has been pushback, particularly from local politicians. Arkansas is seeking to require employers that mandate vaccines to allow for exemptions, including a testing alternative. And Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas issued an executive order banning private employers from mandating coronavirus vaccines.