Chicago mayor says unvaccinated workers will get final chance before losing pay

“We’re not doing mass firings today,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot after declaring Sunday the last day to comply with the mandate


By Gregory Pratt
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will give city workers who didn’t get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Sunday a chance to get the shot before placing them on no-pay status, she said Monday.

Lightfoot implemented a rule requiring city workers get vaccinated by March 13 or lose pay. Asked Monday how the city would enforce its policies, Lightfoot said supervisors would call workers in to verify that they aren’t vaccinated and give them an opportunity to comply. They will then be given an order to get vaccinated and if they don’t, she said, then they’ll be placed on no-pay status, which is considered nondisciplinary.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Brian Cassella)

That gives the city flexibility as it balances its public health rules with staffing issues, particularly in the Chicago Police Department.

“We’re not doing mass firings today,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot’s latest pronouncement comes after the city won another round in court last week in its legal battle with the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police over the vaccine mandate. But she faces pressure not just from the police union — which has appealed the latest legal ruling and claims the mandate will results in an exodus of officers — but also from a group of aldermen still seeking to undo the rule.

The lawsuit filed last year by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 and other police unions against the city resulted in a February arbitrator ruling that upheld the requirement for city employees to be vaccinated, and set this Sunday as the deadline to get the first shot.

A judge’s decision last week to deny the union’s request to reconsider, and to lift a previous order pausing the vaccine policy, were additional setbacks for the local FOP, whose president, John Catanzara, has for months insisted the mandate violated union collective bargaining agreements.

The FOP has appealed that ruling, but Catanzara acknowledged to his membership in an online video Friday that unvaccinated officers could be placed on no-pay status Monday. However, he said the arbitrator indicated Friday that officers who have pending vaccine exemption requests will be excused from the rule until they receive a determination, and that those denied exemptions will get a six-week reprieve. Catanzara said hundreds of officers could fall into that category.

As of Monday morning, 30 Police Department employees and 19 Fire Department employees were on no-pay status, a city spokesperson said. Some city employees previously had their pay cut because they refused to report their vaccine status or submit to regular COVID-19 testing.

According to city data, 2,367 Police department employees still have not reported getting vaccinated, down from 2,777 last week. Nearly 80% of the department is vaccinated, compared to nearly 89% of the whole city workforce.

©2022 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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