Six aldermen urge Lightfoot to reconsider vaccine mandate for city employees

The letter, signed some of the City Council’s biggest champions for rank-and-file police officers, argues the Oct. 15 deadline for city employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations infringes on their constitutional rights.

SHARE Six aldermen urge Lightfoot to reconsider vaccine mandate for city employees
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’s second dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine was administered in February by Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Six aldermen who are among the police union’s staunchest City Council supporters urged Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday to reconsider her vaccine mandate for the city’s 30,885 employees, calling it an “infringement on our constitutional rights.”

Lightfoot has said she won’t move her Oct. 15 deadline for all city employees to get the coronavirus vaccine just because police unions are dead-set against the mandate.

But in a letter to the mayor on Wednesday, a half dozen aldermen who are among the Council’s biggest champions for rank-and-file police officers urged the mayor to reconsider.

The letter was signed by Aldermen Derrick Curtis (18th); Silvana Tabares (23rd); Felix Cardona (31st); Nick Sposato (38th); Anthony Napolitano (41st) and Jim Gardiner (45th).

Napolitano has been both a police officer and a firefighter in Chicago. His Far Northwest Side ward is home to scores of police officers. Sposato is a former firefighter. Tabares and Gardiner also represent wards with heavy numbers of police officers and firefighters. Curtis is a former 18th Ward sanitation superintendent.

Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) attends a Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall, Wednesday, July 21, 2021.

Ald. Nick Sposato (38th), shown at a Chicago City Council meeting in July, is among six council members who signed a letter to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, opposing her COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all city employees.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

“We are writing as both vaccinated and unvaccinated aldermen to express our strong opposition to the mandate that forces ‘ALL’ City of Chicago employees to be vaccinated against COVID,” the letter states.

“While we have struggled with the effects that the COVID pandemic has created in all facets of our lives, the fact of the matter remains that this mandate is an infringement on our constitutional rights.”

The aldermen said they would “continue to work tirelessly” to educate their constituents and promote “vaccination events” and distribute masks and hand sanitizers.

But they argued the mandate “does not prevent others from contracting” the coronavirus and “individuals who have chosen to get vaccinated are still susceptible to contracting the virus and transmitting” COVID-19.

“An individual must make their own decision as to whether to vaccinate and accept personal responsibility for their decision,” the wrote.

“We firmly believe that your executive order to mandate the vaccination for `ALL’ city of Chicago employees is an infringement on their personal freedoms. We are strongly opposed to this mandate and are urging you to reconsider your executive order.”

The mayor’s office stood its ground, arguing in a statement that vaccines are “the safest way to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that our workplaces are safe.”

“That is why the City is committed to continuing our robust educational and outreach campaigns to encourage all Chicagoans – including City employees – to get vaccinated,” the statement said.

“At this point, nearly all aldermen are fully vaccinated, and although they are considered city employees, they are elected officials who do not report to the Mayor. We continue to work across the City and in collaboration with elected leaders to get their communities vaccinated.”

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In a video posted on the union’s Facebook page, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said the four police unions held a 40-minute meeting with city negotiators Monday to deliver an eight-page document outlining their position.

“There was no agreement except for the fact that the city will review in detail our proposal. And they’re going to come back with a counter-document that we are going to discuss on Friday morning,” Catanzara said in the video urging his members to “stay tuned” for an update after that meeting.

“I get a lot of people are getting a little anxious here. But have a little patience. We still have well over two weeks. The exemptions and everything are going to still yet be discussed and, hopefully, revised and be much simpler and in line with other things the city does so it’s not so complicated.”

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 then.

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

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