Vaccine Mandate Arrives to Trucking as Mega Private Fleet Requires Truckers to Get The Jab
Springdale, AR – The world’s second largest meat processor is requiring its 120,000 employees in the United States, including its more than 2,500 truck drivers, to take the COVID-19 vaccination.
On Tuesday, Donnie King, president and CEO of Tyson Foods, announced all company employees must provide proof of vaccination no later than November 21, 2021.
“We did not take this decision lightly,” King said in a release. “We have spent months encouraging our team members to get vaccinated – today, under half of our team members are. We take this step today because nothing is more important than our team members’ health and safety, and we thank them for the work they do, every day, to help us feed this country, and our world.”
According to King, all Tyson leadership (officers and above) must be vaccinated by September 24, office workers by October 1, and all other team members by November 1.
A company official speaking on the condition of anonymity confirmed to Transportation Nation Network (TNN) the private fleet’s more than 2,500 truck drivers will also be required to be vaccinated or face possible dismissal.
All new hires will also be required to be fully vaccinated prior to their start date.
“To our frontline team members: once you are fully vaccinated, and verified in our Vaccination Verification Program, you will receive $200 as thank you for doing your part to keep us all safe, subject to ongoing discussions with our unions,” King said.
King first broke the news to employees via teleconferencing on Tuesday morning, the company official told TNN.
In addition, TNN has learned the Springdale, AR-corporation is also considering requiring all truckers who pick up or deliver to any Tyson Foods facility to show proof of vaccination or be turned away.
Approximately half of Tyson’s freight is hauled by for-hire contract carriers, a source claiming to have direct knowledge said.
Such a mandate would shift the onus onto the truckers of those for-hire carriers to also be vaccinated or be barred from hauling Tyson freight.
Tyson’s announcement comes just a few days after the nation’s largest retailer, Walmart, announced it would be requiring all U.S. employees working within its offices to be vaccinated no later than October 4.
As of publishing, Walmart’s mandate does not apply to its approximately 10,000 truck drivers, TNN confirmed with a trusted source on Monday.
However, today’s Tyson announcement could lead to a domino effect.
Other major corporations such as Amazon, Disney, Facebook and Google have recently issued similar mandates.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a Memorandum Opinion clearing the way for such mandates.
The DOJ’s memo contended that mandatory workplace vaccine policies are permissible under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA).
Specifically, Section 564 of the FDCA permits employers to impose the COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment even when the vaccine is subject to the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) process.
Simply put, the DOJ argued that the vaccine mandates are not coercive and employees can freely choose to receive or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine but admitted refusal could result in termination.
It is important to note that the DOJ’s opinion only addresses the legality of COVID-19 vaccine mandates under one federal statute.
State and local laws may also apply.
Also, as TNN has previously reported, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows employees to be exempted on the basis of a medical condition such as a disability or an allergy to one of the vaccine components.
Employees can also refuse the vaccine based on a deeply held religious belief by claiming protections afforded under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Further, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance states “once an employer receives notice that an employee’s sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance prevents him from taking the influenza vaccine, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation unless it would pose an undue hardship.”
Earlier this year, Jack Finklea, partner at leading transportation law firm Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, told TNN vaccine mandates would soon become a “transformational issue.”
Finklea detailed that the law neither expressly allows employers to mandate employees get a vaccine nor does it prohibit such a mandate.
“The general consensus with respect to employers requiring vaccines is that it is likely allowed as long as certain exceptions are made,” Finklea told TNN in an exclusive interview. “Observing those exceptions, it is understood that requiring a vaccine would generally be allowable.”
Also according to Finklea, shippers and receivers are bound by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations to ensure a safe working environment.
“There are some discrimination protections that might come into play, but as a general rule, customers are going to be able to control the safety of their premises,” he explained. “You’re still going to have that contact and the issue of, ‘How do we keep the people who are coming into contact with our employees safe?’ And from that perspective, it’s going to be similar with respect to owner operators and company drivers.”
However, based on feedback from drivers, many truckers remain hesitant to take a vaccine only authorized for emergency use and with no long-term clinical trial data.
A number of trucking stakeholders TNN has spoken with have also expressed concerns such mandates will send more drivers out of the workforce at a time when America and our economy need them most.
“It’s ugly and it’s going to keep getting worse,” one owner of a large trucking company told TNN today after learning of Tyson’s announcement.
Stay logged on to TransportationNation.com for more on this breaking story.