by Tara Molina and Jermont Terry
CHICAGO (TSTIME) – The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police stands firm in a stare with Mayor Lori Lightfoot on the vaccine mandate for city workers, which goes into effect Friday.
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TSTIME 2’s Jermont Terry reports that officers gathered at the FOP pavilion on Wednesday evening to determine their next steps as the Friday deadline approaches for all city employees to notify the city of their immunization status.
FOP members want the deadline extended to January 1, as the two sides continue negotiations on the city’s vaccination policy, but Lightfoot refuses to budge, despite a warning from the police union president according to which half of the CPD officers are willing to defy the city’s deadline and move to “no pay” status.
So many officers showed up to Wednesday’s FOP emergency meeting that they couldn’t all fit inside the lodge, and some had to congregate on an overflow patio outside.
FOP members seek advice on what to do if they refuse to be vaccinated.
The Lightfoot administration is giving all city employees until Friday to notify town hall of their vaccination status, or switch to “non-disciplinary without pay” status. Any city employee who is not fully vaccinated by Friday has the option to get tested for COVID-19 twice a week, at their own expense and in their spare time, but that option runs out in the end. of the year.
The mayor’s office said all city employees must be fully immunized by December 31.
“Hell no, that’s the best I can say, and it was rampant,” Chicago FOP President John Catanzara said of the police union’s response.
Catanzara asked officers to refuse to report their immunization status, but to report to work on Friday and let their superiors make the decision to send them home.
“We’re going to ask our members to come to work and let the ministry tell them ‘come home’,” Catanzara said.
He said, based on a “rough estimate,” half of the city’s officers are willing to stay home with “no pay” status.
“The belief is that we are going to have a very, very large percentage of officers who will be willing to enter unpaid status because they are not going to enter their information into the portal,” Catanzara said. TSTIME 2’s Tara Molina ahead of Wednesday’s union meeting.
“The ball is really in the city’s court right now to come to the negotiating table and push the deadline, or face a city that is going to have, I guarantee you, at least half of the department remaining to be. home Saturday morning, ”Catanzara said after the meeting.
As the city does not move on its deadline and the union holds firm, what is the next step? FOP wants all members to apply for exemption from the vaccine requirement.
However, they would then be required to pay out of pocket to get tested for COVID twice a week.
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“It is the work of the city. The city forbids us to go to work, come on Saturday morning. It is their decision at this stage, not ours, ”said Catanzara.
Still, TSTIME 2 legal analyst Irv Miller is quick to point out that courts are highly unlikely to step in before the Friday deadline, adding that it depends on what each officer chooses to do.
“I think the courts have to intervene eventually. You have a dispute between two parties; frankly, a legitimate dispute between two parties. That’s what the courts are there for, to solve these problems, ”Miller said.
The union also filed unfair labor practices documents with the Illinois Labor Relations Board on Wednesday, also filing a request for expedited arbitration with the city. Catanzara said they also prepared a class action grievance.
But Chicago police aren’t the only city workers facing the Friday deadline.
What is the difference between the Chicago police and all city employees facing this same warrant?
“I guess, for starters, we have a profession that no one wants at this point. They cannot convince anyone to take this job. The other unions in this town literally seemed to fold and decided, “Let them [the FOP] initiate. If they win, we all win. Let them fight, ”Catanzara said.
Asked about the FOP’s prediction that the DPC could see a 50% reduction in staff from the vaccination mandate, Mayor Lori Lightfoot stood firm, stressing the importance of vaccination for officers.
“Really what we’re focusing on is maximizing the opportunity to create a very safe workplace. Police, firefighters, other people on the front lines every day who interact with the public, it makes sense that they get vaccinated, ”Lightfoot said.
The mayor also noted that the city has already lost several police officers who died from COVID, and it no longer wants to see people die because they refuse to be vaccinated.
As for the possibility that thousands of people will not show up for work at the start of the term, she said the city is ready.
“We’ll see what happens. John Catanzara says a lot of things – many of which are offensive, racist and stupid – but we’ll see what happens,” she said. “We will be prepared for any eventuality, but our message is to members: protect yourself, protect your family, protect your partner, protect the public, get vaccinated. We no longer want to lose officers due to deaths from COVID-19, while a life-saving vaccine is readily available. ”
If half of the city’s police force transition to “unpaid” status during the vaccination tenure, there are rumors that vaccinated officers will have their days canceled and will have to work 12 days in a row to fill the void.
Police officers are already required to run other vaccines, but Catanzara said the mandate of the COVID vaccine is different because those other requirements came with applying for and getting a job, and it’s about ‘a change in their conditions of employment.
“They are changing the terms of employment. We don’t think it’s legitimate, ”Catanzara said. “Lift the warrant, lift the deadline and get back to protecting the city.”
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“If you want to send officers home and risk the safety and security of the citizens of this city, so be it.” It’s not us, it’s you. Our officers want to work, ”said Catanzara.