FOP tells members there will be a testing option for police officers who are not vaccinated

Mayor Lori Lightfoot was less definitive about the testing option, saying she is “still in the midst of discussions” with organized labor.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a press conference and panel discussion at the North Lawndale Employment Network in the North Lawndale neighborhood, where public and private organizations launched “Accelerate Chicago,” a partnership between Lightfoot and Microsoft Corp. that will provide digital skills to job seekers in Chicago, Friday afternoon, Oct. 1, 2021.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she expects to announce more developments next week about negotiations with labor unions over a vaccine mandate for city workers.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara told his members on Friday there will be a “testing option … through the end of the year at least” for police officers who don’t get the coronavirus vaccine.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot was less definitive about the testing option, saying she is “still in the midst of discussions” with organized labor and “the final ink on the deal has not been drafted.”

“I’m hoping we get to that point. … We’ll be announcing more developments next week,” she said Friday at an unrelated news conference.

She chided the FOP for taking a premature and ill-advised “victory lap” about a testing option when the union should be encouraging its members to get vaccinated.

“The No. 1 cause of death in 2020 of law enforcement was COVID-19. Nothing else. In this city, we have people that are in hospitals, in ICU rooms clinging to life, and many of them are law-enforcement officers who are unvaccinated,” she said.

“It’s foolish, foolish to be trying to take a victory lap when so much is at stake. But unfortunately, that’s in keeping with the leadership of this Fraternal Order of Police. They won’t be vaccinated.”

Lightfoot said she is “not going to retreat” from the Oct. 15 deadline for city workers to be fully vaccinated.

“What I hear from folks who are not as vocal as the small percentage that are anti-vax is that they don’t feel safe in the workplace without their co-workers being vaccinated. And that is real,” she said.

In a message to rank-and-file police officers posted on the FOP’s Facebook page, Catanzara told his members, “As of now, the city has not issued a formal mandate. Only draft proposals have been presented by each side.”

After meeting with the city on Friday, Catanzara said he expects “another meeting and response” form the city early next week, although “no set date has been agreed to yet.”

“We anticipate the city to maintain the 10/15/21 date for REPORTING YOUR VACCINE STATUS ONLY,” Catanzara said.

“There will likely be a testing option available for a period of time after implementation of the policy, through the end of the year at least,” he wrote.

“We cannot speculate on or divulge our legal position and judicial options at this point. The hope is to negotiate an agreed policy between the unions and the city. We commit to exhausting all options to protect our members rights and address their legal concerns.”

Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter said he, too, is “still in negotiations” in hopes of reaching an agreement with the city.

“We’ve said from the beginning that we want a testing option as we encourage people to continue to get vaccinated. … We don’t think punitive measures are the way to bring people along to get them to a place where they feel comfortable being vaccinated,” Reiter said.

“We’re still meeting with them, and they have an obligation to bargain over the impacts of a policy. We have not gotten to the end of that process yet. … There is no deadline that we’re talking to them about. We’re still bargaining over the impacts of a policy,” Reiter said.

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Earlier this week, the city sent an email to employees informing them Friday was the deadline for them to get the second shot in order to be fully vaccinated by the Oct. 15 deadline.

The city has set up a portal for employees to upload information about their vaccine status, the mayor said, refusing to reveal the percentage of vaccinated employees.

Testing option or not, Lightfoot said, “There will be consequences if people are not complying with what the policy is by Oct. 15. I believe in accountability. I don’t want to go there yet. I’m hoping that we don’t ever have to go there.”

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