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Appeal to Block City of Chicago Vaccine Mandate Granted by Courts

Darren Maung
Darren is an aspiring writer who wishes to share or create stories to the world and bring humanity together as one. A massive Star Wars nerd and history buff, he finds enjoyable, heart-warming or interesting subjects in any written media.
Published: November 8, 2021
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCT. 26: Chicago police officers and their supporters protest the department's vaccination policy outside of police headquarters on Oct. 26, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The city has started to place police officers on unpaid leave for refusing to comply with the city's requirements that they report their COVID-19 vaccination status. As of last week, only about 65 percent of the city's police have complied with the order. (Image: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has achieved a partial victory with the approval of a temporary restraining order to block the city’s vaccine mandate for its employees.

The FOP has been locked in a legal battle with Chicago City Hall and Mayor Lori Lightfoot over the mandate, which would prevent union members from being paid until they receive a vaccination.

The court challenge

The vaccine mandate in Chicago dictates that all employees are to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 31, with those unvaccinated being given the choice to perform regular COVID-19 testing.

Those who did not abide by the mandate and confirmed their vaccination status by an Oct. 15 deadline were placed in a no-pay status. 

On Nov. 1, ABC7 reported that in Chicago 35 officers have been placed on no-pay status. About 73% of the police department has agreed to the mandate and 80% of those have received a vaccination.

On the same day, Cook County judge, Raymond Mitchell, ruled that the city can maintain its vaccination policy. However, it must not enforce the deadline for police officers, who are members of a union, to get the vaccine without mediation with the police unions. They are allowed to object to the mandate in the presence of an arbitrator before the deadline.

According to Mitchell, an argument that the FOP already had a process to address the matter through a union grievance was declared insufficient.

“‘Obey now, grieve later’ is not possible,” he wrote. “If every union member complied… they would have no grievance to pursue and there would be no remedy an arbitrator could award. An award of back pay or reinstatement cannot undo a vaccine. Nothing can.”

The FOP initially filed for a restraining order to implement arbitration over the vaccination policy and stop the mandate from being put into effect until the proceedings end, where it is claimed that Chicago’s officials depend on “a stream of histrionics about the dangers of COVID-19 to support its claim” that such “unilateral implementation” of its policy would outweigh the four bargaining agreements with the city’s police unions.

In a YouTube video, FOP president John Catanzara called Judge Mitchell’s decision “a small victory.”

“It’s not time to spike the football or end zone dance at this point,” he said. “But thankfully, Judge Mitchell heard our argument that we’ve been saying all along: This fight was about collective bargaining rights.”

Catanzara has uploaded multiple videos online, lecturing his members to disobey the order. This has led to concerns that the police force would be severely weakened due to “mass noncompliance.” The union leader was barred from promoting defiance, and was placed on administrative leave the previous week.

Words of the mayor

Lightfoot’s mandate has faced criticism over the two weeks since it was implemented. However, only a few dozen employees were placed on no-pay status, despite the opposition of thousands of workers.

The mandate survived another court challenge the week before Judge Mitchell’s ruling, where the City Council voted to reject a proposal to overturn the mandate.

“The people that are not vaccinated are playing Russian roulette with their lives,” she said.

Another emergency request to halt the mandate by a group of around 130 firefighters was rejected by a federal judge.

The mayor also said she is aware of the ruling, but affirms that the mandate shall resume as planned. She maintained that the mandates have been approved all over the country. In the U.S. court’s 7th Circuit, a federal court allowed Indiana University to enforce its vaccination mandate for students.

In regards to Catanzara, Lightfoot said that the FOP is “0-8”, vowing that her administration has been “moving with deliberate speed, emphasis on deliberate.”

Police under fire

Despite the small win, this does not put a definite halt to the mandate, and police are still in danger of being stripped of their police powers while not being paid should they not submit their vaccination status to the city’s portal.

“I’m not going to comment on wins or losses as far as the judge’s ruling on this serious issue of vaccine mandate,” Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said. “But what I will say is we’ll proceed with our protocols to get our officers in the portal and to ensure if they’re not vaccinated, that we make the case that vaccination saves lives.”

ABC7 analyst Gil Soffer said that “there were strong competing interests on the side of the police,” as well as interests on having a union to “enforce a collective bargaining agreement and arbitrary disputes on the side of the city.”

The week before the restraining order was approved, police officers organized two rallies against the mandate, followed by lawsuits filed by a group of city workers against Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The restraining order only applies to union members, which means other city workers are not protected and will have to comply with the vaccine mandate.

In a similar situation, in September, thousands of employees of United Airlines were at risk of being placed on unpaid leave over the company’s own vaccine mandate.

In other states across the U.S., several police unions have opposed other requirements for members to be vaccinated, which is eliciting fears the mandate may lead to mass resignations. 

Sheriff Alex Villanueva, of Los Angeles County in California, even warned that the state’s mandate could prompt a potential exodus within the department.

“The choice to receive the vaccine is a personal one, and an individual who served the community tirelessly before there was a vaccine should not now be fired because they made a decision about their own body,” he said in a statement that warns of what he perceived as an “imminent threat to public safety.” 

Several Republican states have also filed  lawsuits against President Joe Biden’s administration regarding a new vaccine mandate for workers at companies with more than 100 employees. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt called the mandate “unconstitutional, unlawful, and unwise.”