Most Chicago city workers — including Chicago firefighters — should be vaccinated against COVID-19, a referee said Wednesday, handing Mayor Lori Lightfoot a meaningful victory.
The decision applies to Chicago employees represented by Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 21, the Service Employees International Union, Local 73, Teamsters Local 700 and all CUP unions, officials said.
A separate arbitration to be held before December 31 will determine whether Chicago police officers represented by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 should be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, the decision indicates that Lightfoot’s vaccination mandate will likely be honored for police department employees as well.
“The city is pleased that a neutral arbitrator selected by both parties has upheld the city’s right to issue a vaccination warrant to its employees,” according to a statement from legal department spokeswoman Kristen Cabanban.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot celebrated the decision of the arbitrator, who is also due to hear the police union’s case on Dec. 28.
Lightfoot called on union leaders to drop their challenges to the vaccine mandate, which was announced in August.
“Work with us to save lives,” Lightfoot said. “Let’s work together, leaders of the labor movement.
Employees who do not get vaccinated and do not have an exemption for religious or medical reasons will not be paid by the city as a result of the ruling.
The decision gives employees of this union until December 31 to receive their first injection of one of the three approved COVID-19 vaccines, and until January 31 to obtain the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer BioNtech vaccines.
“Although this is not the outcome hoped for by the collective group of unions, the arbitrator’s decision gives them options to resolve future disputes created by the implementation of this policy,” according to a statement sent to employees by trade unions. “Through our collective struggle, we were successful in getting more time for workers to get city-mandated vaccines and we will continue to advocate for all of our members as the policy is implemented.”
About 4,100 members of the Chicago Police Department are either not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have refused to disclose their vaccination status to city officials, according to data provided by the city.
That’s nearly 60% of all city employees who are either not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or who have refused to disclose their vaccination status to city officials, according to city data.
Over 77% of all city employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Although Lightfoot announced in August that all city employees should be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 15, she weakened the mandate just before it took effect by allowing city employees who do not weren’t vaccinated to get tested twice a week until Dec. 31.
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