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CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Police officers are prepared to lose pay over the city’s vaccine mandate, with the Fraternal order of police Union continuing loud objections to the upcoming deadline.
Chicago FOP President John Catanzara told CBS 2’s Tara Molina thousands of rank-and-file officers are prepared to go into “no pay” status starting Friday, when the vaccine mandate for city workers goes into effect.
FOP members are meeting on the issue Wednesday night, and Catanzara has vowed to take legal action against the city and seek an injunction preventing the city from enforcing the mandate.
The union representing rank-and-file CPD officers has yet to go to court, but Catanzara said they’re prepared to do so soon if Mayor Lori Lightfoot doesn’t budge from her plan to place city employees on “no pay” status if they don’t notify the city of their vaccination status by Friday.
The FOP has asked the mayor’s office to push that deadline to Jan. 1 while they continue negotiations on the city’s vaccine policy.
“We are going to have our members teport to work, and let the Department tell them ‘go home,’” Catanzara said of his directive to any CPD officers opposed to the city’s vaccine policy, set to go into effect on Friday.
Any city workers, including police officers, who aren’t fully vaccinated by Friday can opt to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week, on their own dime and off the clock. Workers who don’t enter their vaccination status by Friday can be placed on “non-disciplinary no-pay” status.
“The belief is we’re going to have a very, very large percentage of officers that are going to be willing to go into a no-pay status, because they’re not going to enter their information into the portal,” Catanzara said.
The city’s vaccine portal is the second prong of their objection, according to Catanzara, with the city requiring reporting of vaccination status and personal information.
“The city has not shown us, or even talked about the data that would be in that portal. Who is going to have access to it? What are they going to do with it? There is so assurances of security of that information of our members’ medical history,” he said.
With three vaccine exemption forms posted online – for medical, religious, or conscientious exemptions from the vaccine – the FOP is asking all members, vaccinated or not, to file an exemption Thursday, just before the city’s deadline.
The Union also filed unfair labor practice paperwork with the Illinois Labor Relations Board on Wednesday, also filing a demand for expedited arbitration with the city. Catanzara said they have a class-action grievance prepared, too.
Catanzara estimated a 50% cut to the force of officers on the streets, starting Friday, when the mandate is official, if the city follows through on its threat to place employees on no pay status if they don’t file their vaccination status by the deadline.
He said that’s based on “rough estimates,” and would mean thousands of officers not working.
But Chicago Police aren’t the only city workers facing the Friday deadline.
What makes Chicago Police different than all city employees facing this same mandate?
“I guess, for one, we work a profession that nobody wants at this point. They can’t get anyone to take this job. The other unions in this city have seemed to literally just lay down and decided, ‘Let them [the FOP] take the lead. If they win, we all win. Let them have the fight,’” Catanzara said.
Asked about the FOP’s prediction that CPD could see a 50% reduction in manpower over the vaccine mandate, Mayor Lori Lightfoot stood her ground, emphasizing the importance of vaccination for officers.
“Really, what we are focusing on is to maximize the opportunity to create a very safe workplace. Police officers, firefighters, others on the front line every day who interact with the public, it makes sense for them to get vaccinated,” Lightfoot said.
The mayor also noted the city already has lost several police officers who have died of COVID, and she doesn’t want to see any more die because they refuse to get vaccinated.
As for the possibility thousands won’t show up for work when the mandate starts, she said the city is prepared.
“We’ll see what happens. John Catanzara says a lot of things – a lot of it offensive, and racist, and foolish – but we will see what happens,” she said. “We’ll be prepared for any eventuality, but our message is to the members: protect yourself, protect your family, protect your partner, protect members fo the public, get yourself vaccinated. We do not want to lose any more officers from COVID-19 deaths, when a life-saving vaccine is readily available.”
Police officers already are required to get other vaccinations to work, but Catanzara said the COVID vaccine mandate is different, because those other requirements came with applying for and getting a job, and this is a change to their conditions of employment.
“They’re changing conditions of employment. We don’t feel that’s legitimate,” Catanzara said. “Lift the mandate, lift the deadline, and go back to protecting the city.”
“If you want to send officers home, and risk the safety and security of the citizens of this city, then so be it. It’s not us, it’s you. Our officers want to work,” Catanzara said.
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