As cities and states in the United States announce that all state or municipal employees must have the COVID vaccine in order to work, a large portion of them working in key sectors such as police, firefighters, health care professionals, and even train operators are refusing to comply with the order, even preferring to quit their jobs rather than do so.
If this scenario spreads, the prospect of a city running out of doctors, police, firefighters, teachers, nurses, train, subway or bus operators, etc., could have serious consequences: cities could stop functioning, in addition to putting those who do not want to vaccinate against those who do.
There are three major cities in the United States where this scenario is already brewing.
The mayor of the city of Chicago, Illinois, announced in late August that coronavirus vaccination will be mandatory for all municipal employees beginning October 15.
Lori Lightfoot reaffirmed the decision even though Chicago’s four police unions energetically opposed the measure and one of the most vocal union leaders even said police officers would not go to work.
“… what are they gonna do when four or five thousand coppers say, ‘Screw you. I’m staying home. You’re not making me get this f—ing vaccination. Don’t pay me. That’s fine. We’ll see you in court,'” threatened Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara.
The union president posed to Lightfoot what is she going to do when thousands of police officers stay home from getting vaccinated and she has no one to watch out for the safety of the people, especially in Chicago, considered one of the most unsafe cities in the country.
Catanzara told the Sun Times that his affiliates have no confidence in the COVID vaccine because of insufficient information available.
“Nobody knows what the long-term side effects could possibly be. Nobody. And anybody who says they do are full of s–t,” the unionist declared.
Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter said his affiliates “believe in vaccines” and consider those vaccines “important to protect workers and residents.” But they don’t believe the end justifies the means.
“We don’t think that the way to get people vaccinated is by issuing mandates and being punitive about it. What we should be doing is continuing to work together around education and encouraging people. … That has to be something that is collaborative,” Reiter said.
Reiter agreed that there needs to be some kind of policy that gets everyone on track to get vaccinated but that it’s not absolute. “At a minimum, if we are going to ask people to be vaccinated, we should also be presenting a testing alternative,” the Chicago unionist opined.
An Aug. 18 Associated Press article reports that unions representing firefighters and police officers in the Virginia state capital city of Richmond oppose mandatory vaccination.
Keith Andes, president of the Richmond Firefighters Association, Local 995 of the International Association of Firefighters, asked the City Council for a “time out,” saying members don’t have enough information and calling the vaccine an “experimental drug.”
The Richmond Coalition of Police Officers said it also supports the mandated pause and called for more transparency in the procedure because it was not informed what the consequences would be for those officers who do not wish to be vaccinated.
The state of New York has a more complex situation.
On Aug. 16, the government approved mandatory vaccination for all state employees. Ten days later it rescinded the religious exemption as an alternative to vaccination, in a city with huge religious communities from different schools.
In addition, according to the New York Post, health care workers who refuse to be vaccinated against the coronavirus could be fired under an emergency edict from the New York State Department of Health.
New York City’s largest police union, the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), immediately announced its opposition.
“If the City attempts to impose a vaccine mandate on PBA members, we will take legal action to defend our members’ right to make such personal medical decisions,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the PBA.
On Aug. 25, thousands of New Yorkers rallied in front of City Hall to express their opposition to mandatory vaccinations, many of them state employees, teachers, train operators, and parents who expressed their willingness to quit their job rather than get the vaccine.
Al Cardillo, CEO of the New York State Home Care Association expressed concern that the mandatory vaccine would create an existing shortage of workers that will have detrimental effects on patients who need care in their homes.
“There are many providers, still with a substantial portion of the workforce, very reticent to be vaccinated. Much of our workforce comes from minority communities and other communities with cultural considerations where there’s resistance to vaccination,” Cardillo said.
On August 18, more than 100 people of all ages, including members of the local community gathered in front of Staten Island University Hospital to express their opposition to mandatory vaccination.
Leticia Remauro, who is running for Borough president representing the Conservative Party, said at the rally:
“We have to make a choice about what we do with our healthcare. We have heard it for years: ‘my body, my choice.’ And this mayor [De Blasio] has been part of that, he supported it, but when it comes to this pandemic, all of sudden he feels that it is okay for him to violate and trample the rights of others, to segregate us by whether or not we have a vaccine.”
The sum of all these protests made up of thousands of people who are part of the gear that makes a city function, left aside for not wanting to get vaccinated, could create a crisis where cities stop functioning normally, setting precedents of authoritarianism from which it would be very difficult to return.