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Lightfoot: Vaccines a ‘condition of employment’ for city workers

But Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday stopped short of saying city workers would be fired if they don’t comply with a vaccine mandate.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks about the city vaccine requirement during a press conference Friday.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the city employee vaccine requirement a “condition of employment” Friday but stopped short of saying workers would be fired if they refuse the shot.

Earlier this week, Lightfoot said all city employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 15. In the original news release announcing the mandate, the mayor’s office didn’t say what the consequences of not being vaccinated would be, just that “this policy applies to all city employees and volunteers.”

Employees can apply for medical or religious exemptions from the requirement, which will be granted on a case-by-case basis by the city’s Department of Human Resources, according to the release.

Lightfoot spoke about the new policy during an unrelated news conference Friday.

“We always want to engage with our unions on any issue that’s gonna affect their members and certainly their workplace,” Lightfoot said. “But it’s a condition of employment.”

The mayor stopped short of saying workers would be fired if they aren’t vaccinated.

“I don’t want this to be a punitive thing,” she said. “I want people to get vaccinated to save their lives.”

Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter said earlier this week his member unions — which represent thousands of city workers — “believe in vaccines” and their ability to keep people safe. But Reiter said he thinks the effort to protect people against COVID-19 should be collaborative, and there should be a testing alternative in place.

“I’m on board with creating a vaccine policy of some sort. I’m not on board with making it a vaccine mandate that exists in a vacuum,” Reiter said. “At a minimum, if we are going to ask people to be vaccinated, we should also be presenting a testing alternative.”

The Chicago Federation of Labor has an ownership stake in Sun-Times Media.

The mandate has faced strenuous opposition from all four police unions, the Sun-Times reported.

In her remarks on Friday, Lightfoot emphasized COVID-19 testing isn’t the same as being vaccinated.

“There is a lot of conversation about testing, and we’re having those conversations with our colleagues that represent the public employees,” Lightfoot said. “But to be clear, testing is a point in time indicator of where you are. It is not a substitute for the vaccine, it just isn’t.”

Contributing: Nader Issa