NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio says New York City public school employees will have to have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine by September 27th. The new vaccination policy will not allow weekly testing as an option.
The policy is the first blanket vaccination mandate for a class of municipal workers, although certain groups of employees had previously been told they would be required to get vaccinated based on their specific responsibilities.
About 148,000 school employees, and contractors who work in schools, will have to get at least a first dose by September 27.
"What a perfect moment for this given the big news today, the FDA, and we're so thrilled, the FDA has announced today the full approval of the Pfizer vaccine," Mayor de Blasio said. "This is a game-changing moment."
The previous requirement allowed for weekly testing for unvaccinated employees, with unpaid suspensions for workers who didn't comply.
"We are going to start immediately working with labor unions, I spoke to the leaders of the key unions over the last few days," de Blasio said. "We are going to start bargaining with them immediately on the impact of this decision and how to ensure we can implement it properly and fairly. We are going to work together. They will all speak to this decision and offer their own views but what there is clearly a willingness to sit at the bargaining table and figure out what this means and what the ramifications are."
At least 63% of school workers already have been vaccinated. That figure doesn't include those who may have gotten their shots outside the city.
School starts September 13 for the city's roughly 1 million public school students. The move comes at a time to reassure parents amid anxieties about returning to public schools with increasing positivity rates.
"If there's a cornerstone of our recovery, it is returning our children to learning in person safely alongside their friends and among supportive educators," New York City Department of Health Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi said.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers says that the union's willingness to work through the ramifications of the mandate will be determined through the bargaining process.
"Our first priority is keeping our kids safe and the schools open. The city's teachers have led the way on this issue, with the great majority already vaccinated. While the city is asserting its legal authority to establish this mandate, there are many implementation details, including provisions for medical exceptions, that by law must be negotiated with the UFT and other unions, and if necessary, resolved by arbitration," Mulgrew said.
When asked if he would've preferred the mayor had an agreement in place before announcing a mandate, Mulgrew said, "That probably would've been a better way to do this. For whatever reason he made his decisions."
CSA President Mark Cannizzaro also released a statement saying, "While CSA has supported all efforts to encourage vaccination, we have also insisted that vaccination and testing policies are subjects for collective bargaining. Today, the mayor acknowledged that the city must negotiate the specifics of the new policy with school-based unions, and we will work to protect our members' rights and interests at the bargaining table."
However, Henry Garrido, the Executive Director of District Council 37 says he's against the mandate.
"While we strongly encourage our members to get vaccinated, we do not believe that the City has the legal authority to change the terms and conditions of employment without bargaining. District Council 37, along with a coalition of unions that make up the Municipal Labor Committee, will file an Unfair Labor Practices compliant over the City's failure to bargain," Garrido said.
District Council 37 is New York City's largest municipal employees union.
Meanwhile the union representing school principals added that these requirements are subject to collective bargaining.
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