9,000 NYC Workers Put on Leave over Mandate
Mayor Bill DeBlasio's mandate has left firehouse and police precincts understaffed as trash piles up
On Monday morning, 9,000 New York City Municipal workers were put on unpaid leave after refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The move came after New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio set a vaccine mandate deadline of 5 PM on Friday.
While the mandate pushed tens of thousands of city workers to finally get their jab, around 21,000 remain unvaccinated. In addition to the 9,000 put on leave, 12,000 are seeking a medical or religious exemption. The department that was hit the hardest was the FDNY where 1 in 4 uniformed firefighters remained unvaccinated as of Sunday. The NYPD and the Sanitation Department had about 1 in 6 of their employees still unvaccinated.
To further entice people to get the shot, DeBlasio offered a $500 bonus for all workers who got the shot before the deadline. The city reported that another 3,500 city workers got their shots after the deadline but before Monday. According to the Mayor, by Monday, 91% of City workers had been vaccinated.
Since DeBlasio made the announcement of a vaccine mandate, he has faced intense opposition from the unions that represent city workers. Multiple lawsuits have been filed and at least two protests were organized by the unions. This included one marching over the Brooklyn Bridge and another one that was organized by the Firefighters union outside of Gracie Mansion where the Mayor lives. The Department has also accused firefighters of taking sick days over the last week to protest the mandates. Sanitation workers have also been accused of taking part in a slowdown last week to protest the mandate.
Instead of bargaining with the unions, DeBlasio has decided that in his last few months in office, he would rather mandate working conditions for city employees and attack city workers in the press. “We have every reason to believe that there’s a lot of people out there claiming to be sick who are not. It’s not acceptable,” he said at his Monday morning news briefing. “The thing to do is to do the right thing. Come to work. Protect people — as you took an oath to do. Whether these union leaders have now crossed a line, we are watching every single thing they say and do — every email, every tweet — we are watching everything.”
The union disputes the claim that there was an organized sick out at the FDNY. Instead, Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, blamed the extra sick days on members rushing out to get their shots and taking a day off to deal with the side effects. “Hundreds of guys are feeling flulike symptoms because that’s what the shot does to people,” Mr. Ansbro said.
While it might seem like union opposition to the mandate is anti-vax, Ansbro pushes back on that narrative. He said in an interview with NY1, that his union has done more than any other union to try and educate their members about the virus and the vaccine, even hiring virologists to speak to the members about the virus and the shot. However, this has fallen on deaf ears with some of his members who seem to be digging in their feet.
The firefighter’s union isn’t the only one opposing the mandate. The NYC PBA, the largest union representing NYPD members, filed a lawsuit to try and stop the mandate. However, a judge denied their temporary restraining order. The unions argue that their members have worked throughout the pandemic, with upwards of 70% of the members at the FDNY getting COVID, and that the current system of testing has worked to slow the spread of the virus.
According to the FDNY, while no firehouses were completely closed some units were unavailable. The Daily News is reporting that 18 of 350 units were unavailable on Monday due to not having enough people to staff the units.
While a lot of attention has focused on the FDNY and NYPD, the Department of Corrections currently has the lowest vaccination rate in the city at 60%. However, due to previous staffing issues, they are not required to meet the vaccination deadline until December.