They’re a minority. A very loud minority. But a minority, nonetheless.
Municipal workers around the city had until this Monday to get the COVID-19 vaccine. They didn’t.
They’re now suspended without pay and have no one else to blame. But they’ll blame the mayor.
And no city agency or union is immune to the anti-vaxxers.
“Yes, some UFT members did take the unpaid leave, which includes health coverage for a year,” said Alison Gendar, spokesperson for the United Federation of Teachers. “Others took the severance package—cash in sick days; a year of health coverage or until a new employer supplies it—and resigned.”
As of Monday, according to the city’s numbers, 81% of fire department workers are vaccinated, 63% of the city’s correction officers are vaccinated, 85% of the police force is vaccinated, 83% of sanitation workers are vaccinated, and 88% of FDNY paramedics are vaccinated.
Overall, according to the city, 92% of all municipal employees are vaccinated.
Leaders from Teamsters Local 237 (which represents correction officers) and Teamsters Local 831, which represents sanitation workers, weren’t available for comment. However, Local 831 President Harry Nespoli told the New York Post that the recent slowdown in trash pickup, leaving larger piles than normal, was due to the vaccine mandate.
“Look, you’re going to have some spots in the city that they feel very strongly about this,” he told the Post.
But the percentage didn’t match the doom and gloom predicted by union leaders who said the vaccine mandate would throw the city into chaos.
Police Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said that de Blasio made a big mistake with the mandate.
“New York City cannot afford to have a police department that is weak, disorganized and totally dominated by the irrational whims of City Hall. Unfortunately, that’s what the NYPD has become,” Lynch said. “Commissioner Shea and his team should have told the mayor that this mandate and his arbitrary Friday deadline were going to throw NYPD operations into chaos. Instead, they froze like deer in headlights. Now cops and New Yorkers are all wondering: what exactly will happen with the vaccine deadline strikes?”
It struck and most officers obliged.
Other authority figures believe that Lynch is off base with his comments. Marquez Claxton, of Black Law Enforcement Alliance, said that an officer’s job is to serve the public and not getting the vaccine is a violation of that trust.
“A component of public service is selflessness. Although not codified, in policing it is understood that the oath requires a commitment to ‘do no harm,’” said Claxton. “By refusing to vaccinate, these public servants are knowingly putting their clients in harm’s way.”
“Additionally, much of the direct physical contact initiated by police officers is either incidental or without civilian consent,” continued Claxton. “Will the vulnerable civilian population be respected and allowed to reject the cop at their car window demanding their driver’s license or knocking at their door requesting access or information? If the public is not guaranteed that the police officer is vaccinated, can they legitimately reject police contact? The police should follow their common instruction to civilians and stop resisting. They need to comply with these lawful mandates or find another line of work in the private sector.”
Tell that to members of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
“This isn’t about the vaccine. This is about @NYCMayor de Blasio rushing a mandate without thought or planning,” read their Twitter statement. “We have members that are ready to retire, we want them to have the time to make a dignified exit from a career risking their lives for the citizens and city of #NewYork.”
The mayor announced the Nov. 1 deadline for the vaccine 10 days prior. And, like many issues today, it’s become a political battle.
On Friday, members of Ladder 113 went to the offices of New York State Sen. Zellnor Myrie and threatened his workers saying that there would be “blood on their hands” if unvaccinated fire fighters were suspended without pay for not getting the vaccine.
Myrie, whose district Ladder 113 serves, didn’t play any role in implementing the mandate.
“I am outraged,” said Myrie in a statement. “One that on duty officers who were supposed to be focused on keeping us safe and responding to emergencies would attempt to use their uniforms and their fire truck to intimidate my staff. And secondly, it is disturbing that they would approach a state elected official for a city mandate and would I think offer veiled threats about my own safety by asking where I live personally.”
De Blasio was more than outraged.
“…That just disgusted me,” said the mayor. “These were members of the fire department in uniform who accosted fellow public servants who worked for the state senator. They mistreated them, from everything we’ve heard, in uniform, on duty, acting on their own political beliefs. That’s unacceptable on so many levels, it’s almost impossible to cover all the ground.”
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro picked up where the mayor left off and said that the agency will get to the bottom of what happened.
“As the mayor said, we immediately suspended these members for the maximum allowed to us under the city rules, 28 days,” said Nigro. “This case is then—we have a very robust investigative group here at the fire department. It’ll be investigated as all of our cases of our people will have a chance to tell their side of the story and we’ll move on from there, and of course the penalties can be anywhere from what they’ve already received up to and including termination, but I wouldn’t try to speculate on where this will lead them until we investigate the whole thing.”
As of this Wednesday, 18 fire companies had to close due to staffing shortages.