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FOP president warns Council members who fail to repeal vaccine mandate: ‘We are coming for every one of your damn seats’

The proposed repeal was sent to the Rules Committee, where legislation opposed by the mayor goes to die. So was a proposal to continue health care benefits for dependents of city employees during the vaccine mandate standoff.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara addresses a group of union protesters and their supporters outside City Hall as they rally against a requirement that police, like all other city employees, get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara addresses a group of union protesters and their supporters outside City Hall as they rally against a requirement that police, like all other city employees, get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara on Monday likened Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate to the midnight destruction of Meigs Field and warned City Council members who refuse to take a stand against it that “we are coming for every one of your damn seats” in 2023.

Two vaccine-related ordinances were introduced at Monday’s Council meeting. Both were shunted to the Rules Committee, the burial ground for legislation opposed by the mayor. Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) tried to suspend the rules to reverse that action but was voted down 30 to 20.

That didn’t stop Chicago police officers from showing up in force outside City Hall. Nor did it stop Catanzara from threatening Council members who won’t support repealing the vaccine mandate.

“We’re taking a report card and anybody who does not raise their hand — you will be challenged in 2023. We are coming for every one of your damn seats because this is not the way a government is supposed to run. It is not a queen on that throne. … It is not, ‘Take it or leave it,’” Catanzara said during public comments before Monday’s meeting.

“Shame on every one of you. When she challenged your aldermanic prerogative, you all lost your mind.”

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 members and their supporters protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates outside City Hall before Monday’s Chicago City Council meeting.
Fraternal Order of Police members and their supporters protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates outside City Hall before Monday’s Chicago City Council meeting.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

All this occurred as hundreds more police officers continue to report their vaccination status to the city. Numbers released Monday show 8,985 members of the force — about 71% — have done so. Of those responding, about 81% say they are vaccinated.

Later Monday, CPD Supt. David Brown said 23 department employees had been put on no-pay status after defying the mandate.

A week ago, about 64% of the department had responded — the lowest rate of any city department, with the fire department coming in second-worst, at a 72% response.

This week, while the police response rate remains the lowest, CFD’s rate has climbed to 86.19%. They are no longer the second-worst response rate of all city departments.

The City Council (members and staff) is, with 85.75% out of 358 employees responding.

Overall, the city reports that 85% of all employees have confirmed their vaccination status.

In late August, Catanzara was forced to apologize after issuing a profanity-laced tirade comparing the mayor’s vaccine mandate to restrictions imposed in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.

But in an apology video posted on YouTube, Catanzara also tried to explain his offensive comparison.

“When governments, whether it’s Nazi Germany or modern-day Chicago, try to start, or any other major city like New York and many others who are doing this, try to create policies that mandate their employees first to have to do things to their bodies it will not stop there,” he said then. “You are opening up the door for the citizens to be next.”

On Monday, Catanzara told Council members, “You can hate me. You can hate my message,” but the vaccine showdown is “about the entire city workforce. Not the Chicago Police Department. Not even the FOP. And it’s not about me.”

He added: “Everybody hated when Richie Daley decided to bulldoze Meigs Field in the middle of the night because he thought it was the right thing to do. Shame on him. One person should not have that kind of power. Everybody hated when Rahm Emanuel got rid of retiree health care at the stroke of a pen and laughed about it because he thought it was the right thing to do and it wasn’t,” he said.

“For far too long now, everybody sitting in those chairs — whether it’s you or your predecessors — have allowed this to continue on generation after generation. It needs to stop today. This tyrant at the top needs to stop what she’s doing.”

Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) gets a round of applause as she walks among Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 members and their supporters as they protest against COVID-19 mandates outside City Hall before a Chicago City Council meeting, Monday morning, Oct. 25, 2021.
Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) gets a round of applause as she walks among Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 members and their supporters as they protest against COVID-19 mandates outside City Hall before a Chicago City Council meeting, Monday morning.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The ordinance championed by Alderpersons Silvana Tabares (23rd) and Anthony Napolitano (41st) would effectively repeal the vaccine mandate, retroactively requiring Council approval of “all policies, rules and regulations governing discipline” of city employees.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of the city code to the contrary and subject to the terms of any applicable collective bargaining agreement approved by City Council, any new policy rule or regulation that provides for placing city employees on non-disciplinary, no-pay status requires City Council approval,” the ordinance states.

Lightfoot’s mandate that city employees report their vaccination status on the city’s data portal took effect Oct 8. The ordinance “shall be retroactive” to Oct. 1.

The second ordinance, introduced by Ald. Edward Burke (14th), would require the continuation of health care benefits for the dependents of city employees for the duration of the dispute.

Many of those beneficiaries are “being treated for life-threatening diseases, mental health illnesses and are receiving hospital and in-patient treatment which will be at risk,” the ordinance states. “No provision of the municipal code authorizes the Mayor of Chicago to take this draconian action. And furthermore, no action of the municipal code requires city employees to submit the information” on their vaccine status.

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.
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.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Lightfoot has accused Tabares of doing the bidding of an FOP president who “spews hatred” against her Hispanic constituents.

“She knows very well this will never see the light of day. But, the fact that she’s willing to put her name on it is … dangerous. That is not reflective of her community.,” the mayor said.

“It’s really stunning to me that a woman of color would carry the water for a guy like that, who every single day spews hatred against people who look like her and have her background. ... It is really, really shameful. And she’ll have to answer for that.”

Also on Monday, the Council deferred and published Lightfoot’s $16.7 billion budget and all of its related ordinances, setting the stage for a final vote on Wednesday.

And by a now-familiar vote of 29 to 21, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) failed again to suspend the rules for immediate consideration of his bottled-up ordinances raising the threshold for speed cameras and giving the Council its own attorney.

Contributing: Andy Grimm