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City drops COVID-19 vaccine mandate lawsuit against police union

Mayor Lori Lightfoot threatened to refile the lawsuit if the police union’s leadership calls for a work stoppage.

Police and supporters rallied outside City Hall on Monday to oppose a vaccine mandate for city workers, including police officers. A proposal to reverse that mandate was introduced at Monday’s City Council meeting, but assigned to the Rules Committee, traditionally a burial ground for legislation the mayor opposes.
In October, police and supporters had rallied outside City Hall to oppose a vaccine mandate for city workers, including police officers.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Attorneys for the city of Chicago on Wednesday withdrew a lawsuit against the rank-and-file police officers’ union after its fiery first-term president encouraged officers to defy Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 president John Catanzara had been outspoken against the mandate, which required all city employees to submit their vaccination status by mid-October.

Lightfoot filed a complaint against the police union after Catanzara encouraged officers not to comply with the mandate, with the city arguing that amounted to an illegal strike. The FOP countered with its own lawsuit against the city, seeking a suspension of the city’s policy.

Last month, a judge sent both sides back to the bargaining table, keeping the reporting requirement in place but telling the city it can’t require officers to get vaccinated by year’s end.

Lightfoot said she decided to drop her suit because more officers have submitted their vaccination status. About 87.3% of the police department’s 12,623 members had reported their vaccination status as of Monday. Nearly 76%, or 8,330 employees, said they were fully vaccinated. That number still lags behind other city agencies, but it has increased over the past month.

“The past few weeks have shown what I have said from the beginning to be true: that our brave police officers are smarter than their FOP leadership, and care more about their city, their fellow Chicagoans, and upholding their sworn oath to protect and serve, than they do Catanzara’s frivolous demands to stop working,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

Lightfoot threatened to refile the suit if Catanzara or the police union called for an illegal work stoppage or strike.

Catanzara didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A statement posted to the union’s Facebook page said about 30% of its members “are only complying under duress and force.”

The union’s lawsuit is still pending.