NEW YORK (AP) — Several thousand New York City public workers could lose their jobs Friday if they don’t show they’ve complied with the city’s mandate requiring they receive at least two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Though they represent about 1% of the 370,000-person city workforce, including teachers, firefighters and police officers, the mass firings will mark a new line in the sand for the nation’s largest city, which has imposed some of the most sweeping vaccine mandates in the country.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, speaking about the looming firings at a news conference last week, noted that city workers largely complied with the mandate.
“Living in a city as complex like this, there must be rules. We must follow them. The rule is to get vaccinated if you’re a city employee. You have to follow that,” the Democrat said.
The mandate imposed last year under the former Mayor Bill de Blasio required most city workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of October or be placed on unpaid leave. New workers who started their jobs after Aug. 2 were likewise required to comply and show that they’ve received their shots.
There were up to 4,000 workers who had failed to comply by of the end of January, according to City Hall, but that number has dropped as more workers have started to comply or produce their vaccine cards since they were notified last week that they would be fired.
City officials said they won’t know exactly how many workers are fired until after the deadline passes. For most workers, that’s the end of their workday on Friday.
A coalition of unions representing different parts of the city workforce sued to block the mass firings. But a judge late Thursday afternoon ruled in favor of the city. A group of city Department of Education employees had a request for their appeal to be considered by the Supreme Court dismissed on Friday.
Some unions separately struck deals with the city to allow some workers to choose to remain on unpaid leave until this summer or fall. But not all union members took advantage of those deals.
The United Federation of Teachers, which represents New York City public school teachers, had negotiated with the city school district to allow members to choose to stay on unpaid leave until September 5.
But the union said 700 of its members who have been on unpaid leave for months opted not to extend their leave or provide proof of vaccine and had been notified they’d be fired.
The union joined others in fighting the mass firings, contending that workers deserved due process that involved a hearing before being dismissed.
Police Benevolent Association, the city’s largest police union, said less than 50 of its members had received notices they faced termination.
Across the entire city workforce, up to 3,000 employees failed to meet an end of October deadline and have been on unpaid leave for months, according to the city. There are additionally up to 1,000 new employees, who started work after Aug. 2, who face termination because they have not shown proof of having received two shots.
Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed to this report.