A group of around a dozen Tyson Foods employees in West Tennessee took to the streets of Newbern on Wednesday to protest the company's new vaccine mandate.
The employees say they're risking their jobs to fight against the recent corporate decision to require all employees to take the Covid-19 vaccine, according to KFVS12.
While nobody from the group would speak on camera to news crews - citing their employment agreements, one local business owner spoke on their behalf.
"Nobody wants to be pressured to do anything, especially to their own body, that they don’t want to do," said Jill Blessing. "For Tyson to actually say, hey, get the shot or you lose your job, and some of these people, I talked to a girl who has worked here 30 years. And that’s a huge thing to put on somebody when that’s their livelihood."
Around 650 people work at this particular plant.
Employees at Tyson Foods protest the company’s Covid vaccine mandate. pic.twitter.com/b60rLJJUwK— Election Wizard (@ElectionWiz) August 12, 2021
One woman, Tristin Garland, says two family members work at two different Tyson locations and are at risk of losing their jobs over the vaccine.
"It’s been very stressful for all of us," said Garland. "I am a nurse and have seen the good and bad due to this vaccine. And trying to decide between your beliefs, when you are so unsure, or keeping your job of 25 years has just been miserable for us."
Lee Doughten, who is a maintenance worker at the Tyson Plant in Union City, said he’s heard similar protests, and walkouts are being planned there. Doughten said he doesn’t want to get the vaccine and will likely lose his job in November.
“I wish the governor could stop it,” said Doughten. “We were once essential workers, and now we are expendable.” -WREG
Tyson announced last week that all of their 120,000 employees nationwide will need to be vaccinated by Nov. 1 unless they are exempted for medical or religious reasons. Around half of the company's employees are currently vaccinated, while front-line employees who receive the jab are eligible for a $200 bonus and up to four hours of pay if they are inoculated outside of work.
The protest comes one week after the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union raised objections to to the mandate because the vaccine has not been fully approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
"While we support and encourage workers getting vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, and have actively encouraged our members to do so, it is concerning that Tyson’s is implementing this mandate before the FDA has fully approved the vaccine," said UFCW International president Marc Perrone in a statement.
"We believe the FDA must provide full approval of the vaccines and help address some of the questions and concerns that workers have. Additionally, employers should provide paid time off so that their essential workers can receive the vaccine without having to sacrifice their pay, and can rest as needed while their body adjusts to the vaccine and strengthens their immune system to fight off the virus."
The UFCW represents 250,000 workers in the US meatpacking and food processing industries, including 24,000 Tyson employees.