The head of Chicago’s police union has advised officers not to comply with the city’s COVID-19 vaccine reporting requirement and says members should be willing to be sent home without pay rather than submit to the shot mandate for city workers.
October 13, 2021 – By Jade Yan – Source Chicago Tribune (TNS)
CHICAGO — The head of Chicago’s police union has advised officers not to comply with the city’s COVID-19 vaccine reporting requirement and says members should be willing to be sent home without pay rather than submit to the shot mandate for city workers.
With city employees’ vaccine status deadline Friday, Fraternal Order of Police Local 7 President John Catanzara also said in a video posted Tuesday that the union has filed a labor grievance against the city and plans to pursue legal action to fight the mandate.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, asked about his comments at an unrelated news conference Wednesday, said: “He’s threatening litigation. I say, bring it.”
“I’ve seen some of the messaging from the FOP president, but really what we’re focused on is making sure that we maximize the opportunity to create a very safe workplace,” Lightfoot said.
Catanzara’s video was posted to Facebook and YouTube the same day that the FOP announced the death of former police union President Dean Angelo following his hospitalization with COVID-19 complications.
Lightfoot announced last Friday that, through the end of the year, Chicago city workers will have the option to be tested semiweekly for COVID-19 instead of getting vaccinated. But the city also said employees have to report their vaccination status by Friday. If they don’t, they’ll be placed on no pay status.
Catanzara encouraged rank-and-file officers not to report their vaccine status to the city portal and instead to fill out forms citing “conscientious objection” to the vaccine mandate. He advised them to report to work Friday with the assumption they would be sent home. He said he would also forgo pay.
The mayor in her Wednesday comments didn’t address how the city would respond to mass noncompliance by FOP members.
“We’ll see what happens. You know, John Catanzara says a lot of things, and a lot of it offensive and racist and foolish, but we’ll see what happens. We’ll be prepared for any eventuality,” Lightfoot said.
Separately, Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez announced Wednesday that CPS employees who miss Friday’s vaccine deadline will not be barred from working but will need to sign up for weekly testing.
The police union also released a letter it said went to the city attorney advising that if the city did not reverse its vaccination reporting policy, “appropriate litigation will be initiated to preserve the collective bargaining rights of police officers and their unions.”
The FOP’s call for officers to not report vaccine status presses the city to “take a position formally” on conscientious objection, said Catanzara, so that FOP can take class-action.
Catanzara estimated that the city’s police force will operate at a capacity of 50% or less this weekend because of the actions.
“I can guarantee” that the city will not be able to sustain this small workforce, said Catanzara, predicting that the no-pay status would therefore last no longer than seven days.
Later Wednesday, Southwest Side aldermen Marty Quinn, 13th, and Matt O’Shea, 19th, called on Lightfoot not to enforce the Friday reporting deadline, saying they are worried about the safety of their neighborhoods if many police officers don’t report to work.
“We want to be clear that this isn’t about mandates,” a letter from the two aldermen to Lightfoot reads in part. “For us, this is about public safety. We are both fully vaccinated. We work closely with healthcare providers in our communities to ensure residents can easily be vaccinated and we will continue that effort.
“Our main concern now is about losing police officers as we face a dwindling police force and rising incidents of crime and violence.”
The 13th and 19th wards, which include neighborhoods like Garfield Ridge and Beverly, are home to large populations of police officers and other city workers. In their letter, Quinn and O’Shea said they represent over 2,200 Chicago police officers.
Last month, six other aldermen — Derrick Curtis, 18th; Silvana Tabares, 23rd; Felix Cardona, 31st; Nick Sposato, 38th; Anthony Napolitano, 41st; and Jim Gardiner, 45th — sent Lightfoot a letter urging her to drop the vaccine mandate for city employees, calling it “an infringement on (workers’) personal freedoms.”
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