Workers who don’t meet the city of Chicago’s Oct. 15 COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadline will face testing, but it’s unclear how long it would be before other consequences kick in.
Initially city workers who haven’t been fully vaccinated against COVID will be subject to a COVID test, Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago Public Health commissioner, told reporters today at an unrelated news conference with Chicago Public Schools. “We’ll have more to share about how long that option may last as negotiations continue.”
The city did not immediately respond to a request for comment about how often testing would be required, whether there would be surveillance testing among unvaccinated employees, or the latest on union negotiations.
Those negotiations have been pending since Mayor Lori Lightfoot first announced the vaccination requirement for city workers in late August. Last week, the city “formally requested” employees begin submitting their proof of vaccination. Until those records are in, Arwady couldn’t say how many city employees had received their shots.
Roughly 1.7 million Chicagoans have received at least one dose. Overall, 57.6% of the city’s population are fully vaccinated.
The city has not yet laid out consequences for employees who refuse to get their shots without a religious or medical exemption. United Airlines, an early proponent of vaccinations for employees, said earlier this week that 593 of about 67,000 of its U.S. employees are subject to termination for not receiving their shots.
The Chicago Federation of Labor, an umbrella group whose members include nearly all of the city’s major unions, asked for regular testing in lieu of a vaccine requirement. A mandate, CFL President Bob Reiter said at the time, would only harden employees against getting their shot. There’s been significant pushback from unions representing cops, Lightfoot has said.
John Catanzara, president of the union representing the majority of Chicago Police Department rank-and-file officers, said in a Sep. 24 YouTube video that he still planned to stand against the mandate but suggested other unions did not want to join an opposition effort.
“We will never entertain that idea of a mandate as a coalition,” he said in the video, referring to the Fraternal Order of Police and other unions representing higher ranks at CPD. He told members they are not under any duty to give the city or CPD any proof of vaccination.
Other unions that did not want to team up in opposition at the bargaining table are “cowards,” Catanzara said. “They want to cave in and listen to what the city has to say and entertain the idea of a mandate.”
Tomorrow marks the last day employees could receive the Johnson & Johnson shot and have full protection from the vaccine by the Oct. 15 deadline, Arwady said. “Our goal, of course, is just to keep the workplace safe,” she said.