De Blasio loses to teachers’ union and must allow vax exemptions
Striking a blow to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccine mandate for all teachers without exception, an arbitrator ruled that the city should provide housing for staff with health issues or religious beliefs that prevent them from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
The decision – made late Friday, just days before the start of the new school year – says public school teachers who have refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 must be offered unpaid leave or severance pay .
Under the ruling, written by meditator Martin Scheinman, most teachers can remain on the payroll while their request for a vaccine or medical exemption is heard, or if they appeal a denial of their demand.
Teachers who resign because they refuse to be bitten will not be immediately fired; they will be able to take unpaid leave and will be entitled to health insurance until September 2022, specifies the decision.
Teachers who get vaccinated while on unpaid leave and who provide proof of a stroke to the DOE by Nov. 30, “will have the right to return to the same school as soon as possible,” the ruling says.
The decision also bans objections to the vaccine on political and philosophical grounds, and puts in place strict criteria on who can be exempted because of their religious beliefs or medical condition.
“As a group, teachers have overwhelmingly supported the vaccine, but we have members with health problems or other reasons to refuse vaccination,” United Teachers’ Federation president Michael Mulgrew said after the decision. .
“After our request for independent arbitration, the city rescinded its original position that all unvaccinated staff should be taken off the payroll and will offer out-of-class work to those with certified medical or other conditions.
The city has also agreed – based on the arbitrator’s determination – to create both a leave process and a departure agreement for other teachers who feel they cannot comply with the vaccination mandate. “, added Mulgrew.
De Blasio announced on August 23 that all DOE staff must receive at least one injection of a COVID-19 vaccine by September 27. Students return to the Big Apple public school classrooms for the start of the school year on Monday.
Chancellor of Schools Meisha Ross Porter said of the decision: “Our immunization mandate has been put in place for the health and safety of our children and the protection of our employees.”
“We are delighted that the binding arbitration was issued before the first day of school and we will quickly implement the conditions,” she added in a statement Friday. “There will be over 700 vaccination sites in our schools across town every day next week, and we encourage all DOE employees to get vaccinated as soon as possible. “
The move follows the union’s promise to arbitrate the details of the vaccine’s mandate with other working groups. While Mulgrew acknowledged that the vaccine’s mandate will be enacted, he lamented last week that talks with city officials have gone into “a very bad place” on issues such as medical issues.
“It is clear that the two sides are very, very far apart on this vaccine mandate,” Mulgrew told reporters on September 2 following a town hall with members.
Last month, union leaders representing 350,000 workers in the city announced that they were filing a lawsuit to prevent de Blasio from issuing a vaccine mandate for education ministry workers without their input. Union leaders kept their promise to file a complaint on Friday.
The unions say in their complaint that they “support vaccination and encourage all employees to be vaccinated if they are able”, but say the mayor’s rule is “ill-conceived” and “coercive”.
The DOE said it supports the arbitrator’s decision as fair and favorable to his vaccine mandate.
“Given federal and state laws, we believe we should provide a narrow religious exemption,” a DOE spokeswoman said.
“We are satisfied with the arbitration and have always supported narrow and specific accommodations for people with valid medical and religious exemptions!” Said the spokesperson. “This is consistent with what our medical experts deem appropriate, and what we have always known to be part of the impact negotiation for our mandate on vaccines.”
Additional reports from Nolan Hicks