NEW YORK -- A judge on Wednesday afternoon ruled that the city's requirement that Department of Education employees get the COVID-19 vaccine can move forward for now.
The mandate requires all teachers and staff to get at least one dose of the vaccine by next Monday.
In his decision, State Supreme Court Judge Laurence Love said the unions failed to demonstrate that the mandate would cause them “irreparable harm,” and argued that public health outweighed their concerns. Love also said some of the unions’ arguments “don’t pass the smell test.”
“The state and federal courts have consistently held that a mandatory vaccine requirement does not violate substantive due process rights and properly fall within the State’s police power,” Love said in his ruling.
A judge temporarily halted the mandate last week.
Henry Garrido, one of the petitioners of the lawsuit and the executive director of the District Council 37 (DC37) union, lamented Love's decision in statement later Wednesday.
"We are deeply disappointed that the temporary injunction has been lifted. This is not the end of the road and we will continue to fight for the right of workers to make their own healthcare decisions," Love said, adding, "The vast majority of District Council 37 members are vaccinated. For those still making up their minds, force is not the answer. The schools should implement weekly testing if they truly want to keep everyone safe."
Unlike other municipal workers, DOE employees cannot test out and must get the shot.
Opponents sued over the mandate, saying it's unconstitutional.
The decision comes after a separate arbitration process between the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the city that established a process for medical and religious exemptions, and severance packages for teachers who leave their jobs over the mandate.
While the UFT is party to the suit, when asked for a statement, they sent along one in the name of Municipal Labor Committee Chairman Harry Nespoli, not their own president, Michael Mulgrew.
“This case has already led to progress in protecting the rights of our members, since the city — in the wake of the court’s initial issuance of the restraining order — admitted that there can be exceptions to the vaccine mandate,” Nespoli’s statement reads. “The court — while lifting the restraining order — has not made a final decision, and we are preparing additional material to support our case.”
During the hearing, Love said he expects to issue a final decision early next week. But with the temporary restraining order removed, the city is for now free to implement the mandate beginning Monday.
The education department called that a big win for school students and staff.
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