A Cook County judge on Monday temporarily halted Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s mandate requiring all police officers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of the year, WBEZ reported.
Judge Raymond Mitchell ruled that the city’s vaccine mandate should be halted for police officers until complaints that it violates their collective bargaining agreements have been settled in arbitration.
“The absence of meaningful arbitration is not just an injury to members, it is also an injury to the union itself. It undermines the unions’ collective bargaining power and risks diminishing the union in the eyes of its members,” Mitchell wrote in his decision.
Officers do, however, still have to comply with the city’s requirement that they report their vaccination status, and undergo twice-weekly testing for COVID-19.
Mitchell called the reporting requirement “a minimal intrusion” that could be remedied later if it is found to be a violation of the city’s contracts with its police officers.
The ruling is considered a major victory for the city’s four police unions that have been fighting the mandate in court.
Mitchell’s ruling does not impact other city workers, or other parts of the policy. That means city employees who are not represented by any of the four police unions will still have to be vaccinated by Dec. 31, 2021. And all police officers are still required to report their vaccination status and get tested twice a week if they’re not vaccinated.
As of Oct. 25, about 57% of the city’s police force had reported being vaccinated against COVID-19, according to city data. However, 30 percent had still not reported their vaccination status at all.
Up until now, much of the public fight over Chicago’s vaccination policy has been over the reporting requirement. John Catanzara, the head of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, has vocally opposed the requirement that all workers share whether or not they are vaccinated against COVID-19, calling it an invasion of privacy and a violation of the police contract. As of Friday, 30 officers had been stripped of their police powers for refusing a direct order to provide their vaccination status, according to the city.
Last month, a Cook County judge a issued a gag order against Catanzara forbidding him from speaking out against the vaccine mandate after he instructed officers to defy the city’s vaccination reporting mandate.
About 100 officers last Tuesday protested against the vaccine mandate outside of Chicago Police Headquarters.
All city employees were required to report their vaccination status through an online portal by Oct. 15, and on Oct. 18 city officials began the process of notifying workers who had yet to comply that they would get one last chance to do so, or face being placed on no-pay status.
As of Monday, 3,735 officers and civilian employees at the Chicago Police Department – 29% of CPD staff – have yet to report their vaccination status, but only 23 police officers have been placed on no-pay status.
Dozens of officers and firefighters have reportedly been placed on no-pay standing for refusing to comply with a requirement to report their vaccination status.
Chicago’s city aldermen on Friday voted down a bid to repeal Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate for municipal employees, with the majority arguing that the unvaccinated can’t be allowed to serve and protect the general public in the midst of a deadly pandemic.
But per the judges ruling, the Dec. 31 deadline for getting the experimental injections is on hold for now.