NYC reaches agreement with 4 labor unions on vaccine mandate; fire unions push back

Coronavirus

NEW YORK — New York City announced Thursday agreements have been between four of the city’s labor unions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The unions, DC 37, Teamsters Local 237, Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association Local 831, and SEIU Local 300, who collectively represent approximately 75,000 employees (excluding members employed at DOE or H+H), have signed the agreement on the mandate, which includes exemption requests and leave policies.

Firefighters’ unions say they were offered the same pact and have made the city a counterproposal, including a permanent option for weekly coronavirus testing instead of inoculation.

There are currently 92% of NYC workers who have received the vaccine.

“Vaccinations are critical to our recovery and our city workforce is leading the way,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “92 percent of city employees have stepped up and gotten vaccinated, and this agreement ensures a fair process for those seeking exemptions. Thank you to these unions for working with us to keep New Yorkers safe.”

Under the agreement, as at the Department of Education, employees who have applied for exemption from the vaccine mandate for medical or religious reasons will receive an initial decision from the agency, then have the option to appeal that decision to an arbitrator, who will decide the exemption based on the same criteria used at the DOE.

Employees also have the option to appeal to an internal city panel who would decide the exemption. 

Union members who signed the agreement and filed an exemption request by Nov. 2 will remain on payroll with weekly testing pending determination and appeal.

Employees who filed an exemption request between Nov. 3 and Nov. 5 will remain on payroll with weekly testing, pending initial agency determination. However, they will go on leave without pay (LWOP) if appealing that determination.

Employees who are on LWOP can choose to voluntarily separate from service and can maintain health insurance through June 30, 2022. 

Employees on LWOP can also elect to extend the leave until June 30, 2022, but must agree to separate voluntarily with waiver of right to challenge, if not vaccinated, by then.

An employee who gets vaccinated while on leave can return to work at their same work location, according to City Hall.

New York City’s controversial COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all city employees went into effect on Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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