This month, Mr. Biden asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to order large employers to make vaccination against the coronavirus mandatory. Tyson expects that when OSHA outlines more details and a timeline for mandates, which could take weeks, more companies will announce vaccine requirements. When that happens, the options will be limited for those who quit (or are let go) rather than get a shot.
While companies await further guidance from the Biden administration, advisers are looking to details released by the White House on its mandate for federal contractors for clues. That mandate, outlined last week, will apply to employees working both remotely and in the office. It will also allow for “limited” exceptions.
Organized labor, which has tentatively welcomed Mr. Biden’s mandate, has become a crucial ally in efforts by firms like the Walt Disney Company and AT&T to vaccinate their workers. Tyson said it had been able to negotiate 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.
“Certainly having the union endorse our vaccination requirement means a lot, both to the company and to our team members who are part of the union,” Dr. Coplein said.
The State of Vaccine Mandates in the U.S.
- Vaccine rules. On Aug. 23, the F.D.A. granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and up, paving the way for mandates in both the public and private sectors. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. California became the first state to issue a vaccine mandate for all educators and has announced plans to add the Covid-19 vaccine as a requirement to attend school as early as next fall. Los Angeles already has a vaccine mandate for public school students 12 and older who are attending class in person starting Nov. 21. New York City has introduced a vaccine mandate for teachers and staff, but it has yet to take effect because of legal challenges. On Sept. 27, a federal appeals panel reversed a decision that temporarily paused that mandate.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get vaccinated. Mandates for health care workers in California and New York State appear to have compelled thousands of holdouts to receive shots.
- New York City. Proof of vaccination is required of workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations. City education staff and hospital workers must also get a vaccine.
- At the federal level. On Sept. 9, President Biden announced a vaccine mandate for the vast majority of federal workers. This mandate will apply to employees of the executive branch, including the White House and all federal agencies and members of the armed services.
- In the private sector. Mr. Biden has mandated that all companies with more than 100 workers require vaccination or weekly testing, helping propel new corporate vaccination policies. Some companies, like United Airlines and Tyson Foods, had mandates in place before Mr. Biden’s announcement.
Tyson said about 91 percent of its 31,000 unionized employees were vaccinated, matching the company’s overall rate.
One of the company’s poultry plants achieved a 100 percent vaccination rate, from 78 percent before, after Covid hit close to home. A viral video about Caleb Reeves, a young Arkansas man who died of Covid, helped to highlight the risk of the virus to young people, “and we have many young frontline workers,” Dr. Coplein said. Mr. Reeves’s uncle worked at a Tyson plant, and the video “gave them a personal connection to say, ‘Hey, that could be my family, too,’” she said.
The vaccine mandate was part of Tyson’s larger effort to confront the virus, which ravaged its work force early in the pandemic. Meat processors faced criticism last year for a lack of worker protections amid outbreaks in many factories. A number of workers died after the virus swept through processing plants, causing illness and closures.