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Despite united opposition from police unions, Lightfoot won’t budge from Oct. 15 vaccine mandate for city workers

“The deadline is not gonna be pushed back,” the mayor said Wednesday. “We are not gonna retreat from that because the only way that we can create a safe workplace is by getting people vaccinated.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot got her second dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine on Feb. 19, 2021. It was administered by Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot got her second dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in February from Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s health commissioner.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday her Oct. 15 deadline for all city employees to get the coronavirus vaccine is hard and fast and she’s not moving it just because police unions are dead-set against the mandate.

“The deadline is not gonna be pushed back. I can tell you that with 100% certainty,” the mayor said.

“October 15 is the deadline. ... All through the pandemic, I heard from union after union about the concerns of their members. … The only way we can actually make good on the promise of making the workplace safe is by getting people vaccinated.”

Lightfoot said she has had “great conversations with most unions.” She’s not certain the city will hammer out an agreement with those unions on “on every issue.” But there has been, as she put it, “very thoughtful dialogue and engagement.”

But, the city has gotten “nowhere” with the Fraternal Order of Police or other police unions representing sergeants, lieutenants and captains.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot answers questions from the press after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the First Women’s Bank at 1308 N. Elston Ave. in Goose Island, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot answers questions from the press after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the First Women’s Bank, 1308 N. Elston Ave. on Wednesday.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Lightfoot noted she was just at police headquarters a few days ago retiring the police stars of four Chicago Police officers who died of COVID-19.

The FOP vice-president gave a great speech on that day about the need to “come together and support” the families of those four fallen officers, she said.

“The best way that we can support these families is by getting vaccinated. What is the number one cause of death amongst first-responders? COVID-19. It is unconscionable, unconscionable that the FOP is taking the position that they will not do the right thing by their members and get them vaccinated,” Lightfoot said.

“Police officers run into harm’s way every single day. But the one thing that they cannot run from if they’re not vaccinated is COVID-19. They are getting hospitalized. They are getting sick. Get the vaccine. And the fact that the FOP is — I don’t even know what they’re doing. But they’re not engaging with us. that’s for sure. They’re doing their members a disservice.”

FOP President John Catanzara could not be reached for comment.

Last month, 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.

“You are opening up the door for the citizens to be next.”

Catanzara has accused the city of playing a dangerous game at a time when shootings, homicides and carjackings are continuing to climb by threatening to “put people on no-pay status who refuse to get” the vaccination.

“You’re not gonna pay me. You’re gonna make me stay home. But you’re gonna have thousands of coppers willing to stay home, not getting paid to not get a vaccine and then, what are you gonna do for manpower on the streets?” he said.

Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter said his member unions “don’t have an agreement on anything right now” when it comes to the vaccine mandate.

“We’re still in discussions with them. ... When you do a policy like this, it raises a lot of different things you have to address, including leave policy, accommodations. Also, the threshold question around testing alternatives. There’s a number of things we’ve been working through.”

The CFL has an ownership stake in Sun-Times Media.

Last month, Reiter said the CFL’s member unions “believe in vaccines.” But, they don’t believe the end justifies the mayor’s means.

“We don’t think that the way to get people vaccinated is by issuing mandates and being punitive about it. What we should be doing is continuing to work together around education and encouraging people. … That has to be something that is collaborative,” he said.