City Hall had vowed to remove all unvaccinated staffers from payroll without exception, including those with legitimate religious and medical objections.
With the start of the new school year less than two weeks away, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to make sure every teacher and school worker is vaccinated is hitting another snag. The city’s teacher’s unions are refusing to simply allow the mayor to fire the 15,000 or so teachers who have refused to be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons.
Teachers union chief Michael Mulgrew said Thursday that City Hall had vowed to remove all unvaccinated staffers from payroll without exception, including those with legitimate religious and medical objections, which Mulgrew said doesn’t make sense. Because of his opposition, negotiations with the city have gone “to a very bad place”.
“Our impact negotiations with the city have gone to a very bad place,” Mulgrew told reporters after a Town Hall with members. “It’s clear that the two sides are very very far apart when it comes to this vaccine mandate.”
“The city’s position is to remove them from payroll,” he said. “That is disgusting as far as I’m concerned. And it does not follow the law. The law says that these accommodations and exemptions have to be in place.”
Also, as we noted earlier,a recent study showed teachers do not face an increased risk of hospital admission from COVID.
While he has urged members to get the shot, Mulgrew claims the city’s position is “unreasonably rigid”, and not accommodating those with legitimate medical issues.
It’s not fair to financially penalize them, Mulgrew said.
To try and put more pressure on City Hall,the teacher’s union is seeking to work with other labor groups as they team up to leverage their combined influence.
They’re also hoping to highlight the fact that these restrictions will have an outsize impact on minorities, especially Blacks, view the vaccine with mistrust.
Not every union member is backing Mulgrew on this. Some union factions have demanded mandatory jabs for all, complaining that those who don’t get the shot are putting their colleagues and others at risk. DOE staffers have until Sept. 27 to get their first shot and an agency spokesperson said that an accord with the union is nearing completion.
“The health and safety of New York City children and the protection of our employees is at the core of the vaccine mandate,” said spokesperson Danielle Filson. “We will continue to negotiate with the UFT to reach a successful agreement because that is what’s best for our school communities.”
As of last week, the city said that 72% of city teachers and 63% of all school workers had already been vaccinated. And if anything, the city said, the number of vaccinated workers is probably higher, as some likely got the shot through private practitioners not through the school.
After acknowledging that the vaccine requirement had created controversy and division within his ranks, Mulgrew added during Thursday night’s meeting that members should dial back their rancor on social media, and not play into the same toxic dynamics that are leading school board members across the country to quit.