NEW YORK — Four major labor unions reached an agreement with the city over its vaccine mandate for municipal workers on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The city successfully negotiated agreements with District Council 37, Teamsters Local 237, Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association Local 831 and SEIU Local 300, de Blasio said in a press release Thursday afternoon.
What You Need To Know
- The city has reached an agreement with District Council 37, Teamsters Local 237, Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association Local 831 and SEIU Local 300 over its vaccine mandate for municipal workers
- The agreement will allow union members who have applied for medical or religious exemptions from the mandate to appeal any initial decision the city hands down
- Unvaccinated employees who have not requested exemptions or whose appeals have been denied will be placed on unpaid leave through Nov. 30. They can extend the leave through June 30 of next year
- The agreement will affect approximately 75,000 municipal employees connected to the unions
“As part of this agreement, these unions have agreed to withdraw litigation filed last month which challenged the City’s right to implement the mandate,” the release said.
The agreement will affect approximately 75,000 municipal employees connected to the unions, the release noted.
“Vaccinations are critical to our recovery and our city workforce is leading the way,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Ninety-two precent of city employees have stepped up and gotten vaccinated, and this agreement ensures a fair process for those seeking exemptions.”
Vaccinations are critical to our recovery and 92% of city employees have stepped up and gotten vaccinated.— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) November 4, 2021
Thank you to @DistCouncil37, @Local237NY, Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association #Local831 and @SEIU Local 300 for working with us to keep New Yorkers safe. pic.twitter.com/0DOgVedkdD
The agreement will allow union members who have applied for medical or religious exemptions from the mandate to appeal any initial decision the city hands down, the release said.
Union members who filed their requests for exemptions by Tuesday will be allowed to stay on the city’s payroll if they decide to appeal their outcomes, provided they agree to get tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis, according to the release.
Members who submit exemption requests before midnight on Friday will stay on the payroll — with weekly testing — until they receive a decision. If they decide to appeal, they will be placed on leave without pay, the release said.
Unvaccinated employees who have not requested exemptions or whose appeals have been denied, meanwhile, will be placed on unpaid leave through Nov. 30.
Employees who are placed on unpaid leave will be allowed to extend the leave and keep their health insurance plans through June 30 of next year, at which point they will have to leave their jobs if they are not vaccinated, according to the release.
In a statement released after de Blasio announced the agreement, District Council 37 said 92% of its city employees were vaccinated.
“We have reached an agreement that gives our members options,” the council’s executive director, Henry Garrido, said in a statement. “Individuals can now make choices based on what is best for them and their families and know they will have health benefits available during this critical time.”
Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd sent a letter to his union’s members that was posted on the union’s website. In it, Floyd said he was “pleased to announce” the terms of the agreement with the city.
A spokesperson for Local 237 said the union did not have a statement or response when contacted.
NY1 has reached out to the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association Local 831 and SEIU Local 300 for comment on the agreement.
The city is still facing a legal challenge to the mandate from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the largest police union in the five boroughs.
Leadership with the Uniformed Firefighters Association and Uniformed Fire Officers Association, which both represent members of the FDNY, were among the unions that did not accept the city’s offer.
During a press conference on Thursday, the presidents of the UFA and UFOA told NY1 that they saw the city’s offer as more of a starting off point to begin negotiations.
“What we asked for from the beginning was to negotiate the implementation of the mandate. So, this is our back and forth. We’re finally getting a chance to weigh in on how we’re going to implement this,” said Lt. James McCarthy, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.
Since last week, both unions have repeatedly taken their case to the media and said that the mayor’s office was not responding to their requests to negotiate their issues with the vaccine mandate.
Like other city agencies, the vaccination rate for members of the FDNY has increased considerably since the mandate was first announced. Still, union officials said that they had a number of members who were still holding out hope for an extension or exemption from the mandate for members of the FDNY.
“We still have a large number of members who still haven’t come around to the fact that, what we understand, is that the mayor is not giving in,” said UFA President Andrew Ansbro.
Among the demands union officials are still asking for is the return of the testing option for those who want to remain unvaccinated.
The unions cited a new report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, issued Thursday, as support for their request.
OSHA has now recommended that companies with more than 100 employees should ensure their workers are either fully vaccinated or that they test negative for COVID-19 at least once a week.
The OSHA report does give employees the option between vaccination and weekly testing.
“So we’re awaiting their reply for our counterproposal,” said McCarthy.
The mayor’s office responded to the unions in a statement issued to NY1 on Thursday night.
“Vaccine mandates work. That’s why City workers have stood up for their communities in record numbers, and that’s why so many unions have reached smart, fair agreements on this policy. But the City of New York does not negotiate labor deals in the press,” wrote Mitch Schwartz, the First Deputy Press Secretary for the Mayor’s Office.