Calif. capital to require all city employees to get vaccinated or face discipline
Unions representing first responders in Sacramento voice concerns over vaccine mandate
The Sacramento Bee
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The city of Sacramento will require all 4,619 of its employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by Sept. 1 or face termination, according to an email the city sent to union leaders Thursday evening.
"The City anticipates implementing a policy, effective Wednesday, September 1, 2021, and subject to certain limited and legally required exemptions, requiring all City employees to submit proof of their full or partial vaccination for COVID-19 or to have requested an exemption for qualified medical or bona fide religious reasons," the memo reads. "Employees who fail to submit proof of full or partial vaccination for COVID-19, or who fail to request a medical or religious exemption, by September 1, 2021, are subject to discipline, up to and including termination."
Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the City Council had instructed City Manager Howard Chan to develop and implement a plan ensuring vaccination for all city employees, said Jennifer Singer, a city spokeswoman.
Brandy Johnson, business administrator for Stationary Engineers Local 39, the city's largest union, raised concerns.
"We're going from what is the current Sacramento County mandate where you have to wear a mask whether you're vaccinated or not, to now blind siding all of the members and employees of the city that they are mandated to be vaccinated with less than two weeks' notice," Johnson said.
The union represents about 1,500 city employees, including solid waste drivers, water plant operators, animal control workers, clerks, customer service representatives and code enforcement workers.
Local 522, the city firefighter union, has also raised concerns with the memo.
"Local 522 is disappointed that apparently the Mayor and City Council has decided that all city employees must be vaccinated by September 1st or be disciplined, up to and including termination," the union wrote on Facebook Friday. "Local 522 does not oppose the vaccine and does not discourage our members from getting it. We just believe that our members have a 'right to choose' to vaccinate or be tested periodically. We do not see that as an unreasonable request of the City."
On Wednesday, Local 522 President Chris Andrew wrote a letter the City Council and Steinberg expressing concerns with the possibility of a vaccine mandate.
"I am told that approximately 55 percent of Sacramento firefighters and paramedics are vaccinated," Steinberg responded in a letter to Andrew. "That means the other 45 percent are interacting with the public and potentially spreading the disease. It is highly irresponsible to insist that this is a matter of personal freedom and choice. Medically vulnerable residents of our city should be able to trust that a firefighter or paramedic who arrives to help them won't infect them."
The city's police officer union has similar concerns to Local 522.
"It is extremely disheartening that after a year and a half on the front lines of a global pandemic, where our members have policed this City under the most difficult of circumstances, that some of those same brave officers will be facing terminations come September 1 due to exercising a medial choice," said a memo Sacramento Police Officers Association president Officer Tim Davis sent to members Friday. "...the SPOA is prepared to fight the City's Vaccinate or Terminate program with every tool we have. The City has made its employees the enemy in their misguided efforts to punish employees for making personally medical choices."
Unions have until Wednesday to schedule a meeting regarding "any impacts or effects of this requirement," the memo read.
The Sept. 1 deadline is subject to negotiation, city spokeswoman Jennifer Singer said.
"We look forward to negotiating in good faith with our labor partners about how to get every city employee vaccinated with the utmost urgency," Steinberg said in a statement.
Steinberg also said Friday he has requested that City Manager Howard Chan require new city employees get vaccinated before they can start work.
Amid the highly contagious delta variant, Sacramento County's daily cases have skyrocketed, from 7.2 per 100,000 residents for the week ending July 1 up to 28 per 100,000 by July 31, according to the local health office.
San Francisco is also requiring all city employees to be vaccinated or they could be fired, but not until a vaccine receives full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Employees of the cities of Los Angeles and San Jose are also required to be vaccinated, but have the weekly testing option. California is requiring all health care workers to be vaccinated by the end of September.
The Sacramento notice replaces a memo from July 30, when the city was going to perform mandatory weekly testing for employees who refused to be vaccinated, the memo read.
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