Chicago police push back as union reps negotiate vaccine mandate with city officials

Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Police push back as Lightfoot calls for vaccine mandate
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Chicago police unions could prove to be the group of city employees that puts up the biggest fight against Mayor Lori Lightfoot's vaccine mandate.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago police unions were the first to hold negotiations with the city after Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced her vaccine mandate - and they could prove to be the group of city employees that puts up the biggest fight.

"I'm totally against it," said Sgt. Jim Calvino, president, Chicago Police Sergeants Union. "I just did an informal survey with my members and I got some numbers over here. About 170 responded, and I got 158 against the mandate."

Lightfoot said Monday the vaccine requirement is for the safety of the public, but also for the health of other city workers. But the pushback from police unions means the issue could be dragged out in court.

Chicago vaccine mandate: City workers will need to get COVID-19 shot, Mayor Lori Lightfoot says

The four unions representing Chicago police officers -.from the rank-and-file up to captains - met virtually Tuesday with Lightfoot's team to discuss her just announced vaccine mandate. Police said it appears the plan is being rushed through.

"They put plans in motion, that they have no implementation power," said Sgt. Jim Calvino, president, Chicago Police Sergeant's Union. "Let's go in and do this, and then after we're ready to start, like, okay, how are we to implement this, how are we gonna get the people vaccinated?"

Calvino said the mayor wants to finalize a vaccine mandate policy by the end of the week, but there was significant pushback.

"If it's a mandatory condition, seven points that must be negotiated and that's pretty well settled in labor laws," said Lt. Michael Stiscak, president, Chicago Police Lieutenants Union. "So if they're going to make this a fireable offense or a mandate in order to maintain employment, that's gonna have to be negotiated by them. It just cannot be enacted by them."

The Fraternal Order of Police has already threatened to file a lawsuit challenging any mandate with the sergeants, lieutenants and captains unions expected to join the fight.

The vaccine mandate would allow for religious or medical exemptions, but for a department where morale is already suffering, requirement to get the shot is seen as just another blow.

"It'll definitely further erode the morale, and also the the trust in the department, city," Calvino said. "I can't see this going anywhere but down."

The Chicago Department of Public Health tweeted Tuesday night that all city workers, including police and fire, need to be vaccinated to protect themselves and the people of Chicago we have pledged to serve.

"Several of my members have steadfastly refused and will refuse to take any vaccination, no matter what the city does as far as discipline-wise," Calvino said.