In an escalation of the already tense relationship between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the union leader representing rank-and-file members of the Chicago Police Department, the mayor today responded to the union’s threatened lawsuit over the city’s COVID vaccine mandate: “Bring it.”
In a video update to union members yesterday, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara said he planned to file a preliminary injunction against the city’s vaccination mandate in court, and he discouraged officers from reporting their vaccination status to the city by the Oct. 15 deadline.
As of this afternoon, that suit has not yet been filed, Catanzara says. The union is waiting for a response from the city on its demand yesterday for immediate arbitration.
The mayor was asked about that threat today at an unrelated City Colleges news conference. “We’re not trying to do anything other than create a safe workplace,” she said, pointing out at least four CPD members have died from COVID. Officers “need to get vaccinated for their own safety, the safety of their family, the safety of their partners and the safety of the public.”
“He’s threatening litigation. I say, bring it, because we are going to create a safe workplace for all of our employees,” she continued, denying Catanzara’s contention that the city has slow-walked any meetings with the union. “We have been engaged with the unions since the summer,” and Catanzara has repeatedly delayed such meetings, she said.
In yesterday’s video message, Catanzara had estimated as many as 50% of the police workforce might not show up for work this weekend after not reporting their vaccination status by the Friday deadline. “We’ll see what happens,” the mayor said. “John Catanzara says a lot of things, a lot of it offensive and racist and foolish. But we’ll see what happens. We’ll be prepared for any eventuality.”
Lightfoot declined to detail the consequences for workers who are not vaccinated by another city deadline: Dec. 31. A previous mayor’s office press release stated that “employees must be fully vaccinated unless they have received an approved medical or religious exemption.”
Two Chicago aldermen whose wards are home to many of the city’s public safety employees wrote to the mayor today asking her to “reconsider the vaccine mandate” over concerns that officers who do not report their vaccination status won’t work.
“Our main concern now is about losing police officers as we face a dwindling police force and rising incidents of crime and violence,” Alds. Matt O’Shea, 19th, and Marty Quinn, 13th, wrote today. “We understand the stark realities we’re facing as a city that do not offer easy solutions: We could lose officers if they get severely sick or die from COVID-19 or we may confront a further unraveling of violence on our streets if officers decide not to work because of this mandate. For now, we are asking you to reconsider the vaccine mandate. We offer our time, help and ideas to find a solution that works to keep our police and communities safe. We want you to consider us partners in finding a solution to this public safety crisis.”