New York teachers union fights for medical and religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandate
The New York City Teachers Union has officially called on the state to intervene against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccination mandate for all employees of the city’s Department of Education, calling it “draconian.” and due process violation with less than two weeks before the first day. from public school on September 13.
The union said the city is not cooperating in granting medical and religious exemptions from the vaccination mandate, which goes into effect Sept. 27 for 148,000 DOE employees. This includes teachers, administrators, cafeteria workers and guards who must prove they have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the effective date.
The vaccine’s mandate “eviscerates due process and collective bargaining rights of educators who could lose their livelihoods, health benefits and pensions, and ignores those for whom vaccination is medically contraindicated or violates a sincere religious belief of employees, ”the union said. in a filing with the State Employment Public Relations Board Wednesday. They added that in recent negotiating sessions, the city has shown that it “has no intention of deviating from its inflexible position or including the UFT in a meaningful negotiation regarding the implementation of the city vaccination policy “.
In a statement, DOE spokesperson Danielle Filson said, “The health and safety of New York City’s children and the protection of our employees is at the heart of the vaccine mandate. We will continue to negotiate with the UFT to reach a successful agreement as this is what is best for our school communities.
The PERB will arbitrate a session between the union and the city, according to Chalkbeat. If there is no agreement, the UFT and the city will then proceed to arbitration.
The vaccination mandate for DOE employees is one of the strictest for a municipal agency, with no ability to provide negative COVID test results instead of continuing to work inside a school building.
De Blasio’s tenure goes beyond the policy he announced earlier this summer for all workers in the city, including teachers, which requires vaccination or weekly testing. It applies to the city’s traditional public schools and includes all charter schools that are co-located with them. The mandate does not apply to pre-K teachers in community organizations outside of city school buildings, bus drivers or private schools. They can set their own rules and are governed by the state.
The city did not specify what would happen to non-compliant DOE employees, with de Blasio saying on August 23 that city hall would work “through sanctions” and that “there will clearly be consequences if someone does not. not conform “. De Blasio also said the city will deal with the medical issues of DOE employees on a case-by-case basis. “If someone has a serious health problem, that’s something we’re going to deal with with the doctors,” he said.
But the UFT said negotiations with the city are now at a standstill over whether employees with medical problems or employees with religious objections to the vaccination mandate can work remotely.
“According to city negotiators, people with health concerns could stay on the payroll until their sick days are exhausted, then go on unpaid leave, while those with religious objections would immediately leave.” on unpaid leave. In both cases, people on leave would lose not only their wages but also their health insurance, ”the union said in a statement on Thursday.
UFT said unvaccinated DOE employees should be allowed to work remotely, noting that thousands of students are expected to enroll in a distance learning program for medically vulnerable children along with other tasks. administrative procedures that could be carried out outside of schools.
“It is estimated that at least 5,000 students will be ‘home schooled’ this coming school year and there are a variety of other tasks – including curriculum development, school and social screening, and management and analysis of school data – which can be done outside of the classroom, ”the union’s file told the state.
The UFT said it supports vaccination and safe classroom practices COVID-19 in general, noting that nearly 80% of its union members have been vaccinated. The union also agreed with city officials that the DOE’s COVID-19 protocols “so far have made schools one of the safest public spaces in New York City,” the union file says. .
New York state banned religious exemptions for student immunizations in 2019. Clinical trials and real-world vaccine evaluation have so far shown that the only medical condition that could prevent people from getting vaccinated. getting vaccinated is a serious allergy, which has only happened 2 to 5 people per million who are taking the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. Even then, doctors can reverse the consequences with allergy medication.
The UFT file also noted that Governor Kathy Hochul raised the possibility of weekly testing in the absence of a vaccination mandate for the state’s school districts.
Other labor groups have taken legal action against the immunization mandate: “DC 37 – which represents school assistants, dining room workers and other staff as well as thousands of other staff in the workplace. the city – said he would file an unfair labor practice complaint with the state, ”the Associated Press reported. The municipal labor committee also voted to take legal action and force the city to negotiate the details of the implementation, including penalties and medical exceptions.