The union representing New York City police officers vowed to sue the city government Wednesday, just hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for every single New York City municipal employee.
De Blasio’s mandate will cover a sprawling workforce of more than 300,000 people and takes away the option for vaccine holdouts to undergo weekly testing in place of a shot.
“From the beginning of the de Blasio administration’s haphazard vaccine rollout, we have fought to make the vaccine available to every member who chooses it, while also protecting their right to make that personal medical decision in consultation with their own doctor,” Patrick J. Lynch, president of New York’s Police Benevolent Association, said in a statement.
“Now that the city has moved to unilaterally impose a mandate, we will proceed with legal action to protect our members’ rights.”
De Blasio said Wednesday that any city employee who fails to receive at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine before the end of Friday, Oct. 29 will be placed on unpaid leave until they change their minds. However, every worker who does get a shot before next Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline will be rewarded with a $500 bonus.
Speaking on Morning Joe, de Blasio said: “It’s a mandate now for all city agencies, all city workers—it’s time for everyone to get vaccinated. Our public employees are going to lead us out of the COVID era.”
The vaccination rate among the city’s workforce stands at just over 80 percent—but some departments are faring far better than others.
Under 70 percent of NYPD employees and 60 percent of FDNY workers have taken their shots, and, earlier this month, police unions vowed to defend the rights of their unvaccinated colleagues. However, vaccination rates stand in the mid-90s in the education and health departments, which have both been under vaccine mandates since late September. (The mandate for school workers was unsuccessfully challenged in court.)
De Blasio said the vastly different vaccination rates between departments show why a total vaccine mandate is now needed in NYC.
“Look, what we did with our schools worked,” he said. “Our schools are incredibly safe and families needed to know their kids would be safe. Well, we all need to know we’re going to be safe going forward... We need to reassure all New Yorkers that, if you’re working with a public employee, they’re vaccinated and everyone’s going to be safe.”
Of the approximately 160,500 city workers affected by Wednesday’s announcement, 71 percent have already received at least one vaccine dose. The announcement will not immediately apply to uniformed correction officers due to staffing shortages, but they will be subject to a separate vaccine mandate effective Dec. 1, according to the mayor.
Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Melanie Hartzog said in a Wednesday statement: “Vaccinations are critical to combating the COVID-19 pandemic. This mandate is a bold step that protects our families, friends, and communities, including those that are not yet eligible for the vaccine such as our city’s youngest residents.”