LA City Council OKs vaccine mandate for city employees

Police union leaders say they have "questions and concerns" as to how the ordinance will impact cops

By Elizabeth Chou
Daily News, Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday, Aug. 18 to make vaccination a condition of employment for city workers by Oct. 20, unless they can show they have medical or religious reasons to be exempt.

Representatives of some city employee unions raised concerns over this ordinance, which was approved 13-0, by the council. Two of the council members, John Lee and Marqueece Harris-Dawson were not present for the vote.

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday, Aug. 18 to approve a vaccine mandate for city workers, unless employees can show they have medical or religious reasons for exemption.
The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday, Aug. 18 to approve a vaccine mandate for city workers, unless employees can show they have medical or religious reasons for exemption. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Even though the ordinance sets vaccinations as a condition of employment, that manner in which that is enforced, such as whether is terminated as a result, would still need to be clarified and is expected to still be subject to negotiations with city employee unions.

Meanwhile, the ordinance approved Wednesday goes further than what had first been proposed last month by city leadership. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Council President Nury Martinez had called for giving city employees the option of showing proof of vaccination, or being subject to regular COVID-19 testing.

One of the larger city employee unions, represented by SEIU Local 721, issued a statement from its president, David Green, saying it "strongly encourages all Los Angeles City workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19."

"As a matter of fact, we've partnered with various city departments to offer free mobile vaccination clinics at various worksites in the city."

Green said that there are still those who may be hesitant to be vaccinated, and so they "will continue to strongly advocate with the city for a robust and frequent testing option for all workers who have yet to be vaccinated."

Leaders for the police officers union issued a statement saying they are "actively engaged with the city" on the ordinance.

"We have many questions and concerns as to how this ordinance will impact our members and we are working to ensure our members are treated fairly and that the city follows the confines of our MOU as well as local, state, and federal laws," it read.

The vaccination rate among Los Angeles police officers have been the subject of consternation, in particular, as it falls below the rate of the general public,of whom 67% had gotten at least their first dose and 58% were fully vaccinated as of mid-June. Meanwhile, as of July 21, around 47% of officers were fully vaccinated, and 52% had gotten at least their first does of a vaccine.

Representatives for the officers union said they were interested in discussing how the exemption requests will be evaluated, who will be doing those reviews and how much time it would take.

[RELATED: Can public safety employers mandate COVID vaccination?]

Councilman Paul Krekorian says the council will continue to confer with labor units to work out the roll out of the mandate. "That's a given," he said. "We will continue to discuss this with labor, we will continue to say how that takes place, how that's enforced."

Krekorian added: "You are either going to be vaccinated, if you don't have an exemption, or you will not going to be able to continue to be employed by this city."

He also pushed back on claims the vaccines are untested, unsafe or not fully approved, saying that the vaccines "are safe, these are efficacious and it is our duty as citizens, let alone as public employees, just as citizens, to make sure we get vaccinated to keep people from dying."

Council President Nury Martinez underscored Krekorian's remarks, adding that 42 city employees have died after contracting COVID-19, and pointed to the thousands of employees who have tested positive.

"This is not radical, this is just common sense," Martinez said Wednesday, pointing to other cities that have started implementing similar requirements.

"All of us here, represent the city (in) everything we do, including our vaccination status," Martinez. "How can we ask Angelenos to be vaccinated, if we are not doing it ourselves? We need to set strong examples for our communities."

The council is also ramping up to adopt a wider vaccination mandate. Earlier this month, the 15-person panel moved to begin mandating vaccinations at indoor public settings such as restaurants, bars, retail establishments, fitness centers, spas, and entertainment centers such as stadiums, concert venues and movie theaters. That ordinance has not been brought back to the council for consideration.

(c)2021 the Daily News (Los Angeles)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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