With Monday’s vaccine deadline approaching, a dozen council members demand no-firing promise from Lightfoot

‘This is gonna be probably the bloodiest of all summers because we’re in lawless land right now,’ Ald Anthony Napolitano says. ‘We just can’t afford to lose anybody right now at all.’

SHARE With Monday’s vaccine deadline approaching, a dozen council members demand no-firing promise from Lightfoot
Hundreds of union members deemed essential get doses of a COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site run by the Chicago Federation of Labor at International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399 on the South Side, Monday, March 29, 2021.

Monday is the deadline for city employees to receive their first dose of coronavirus vaccine. |

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

With Monday’s first-shot deadline fast approaching, a dozen Chicago City Council members demanded Friday that Mayor Lori Lightfoot agree in writing not to discipline any city employees — even police officers — who haven’t received the COVID-19 vaccine.

The deadline was established by an independent arbitrator who upheld Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate for rank-and-file Chicago police officers.

Monday is also the day when the mayor would be free to start placing on no-pay status the 2,967 police officers who are not vaccinated and have not applied for a medical or religious exemption.

The letter to the mayor was signed by Anthony Beale (9th), Marty Quinn (13th), Edward Burke (14th), Ray Lopez (15th), Derrick Curtis (18th), Matt O’Shea (19th), Silvana Tabares (23rd), Felix Cardona (31st), Nick Sposato (38th), Samantha Nugent (39th), Anthony Napolitano (41st) and Jim Gardiner (45th).

It demands that Lightfoot agree in writing that “no city employee will be disciplined and/or terminated until a comprehensive plan is presented that incorporates the science of natural immunity and an open and fair exemption process to protect the health and beliefs” of city workers.

Natural immunity — achieved by having tested positive for the coronavirus or being exposed to it — would be proven through a serology test taken at the employee’s expense under the plan.

But Tabares, Sposato and Napolitano went further in a series of interviews, arguingthat Chicago can’t stand to lose even one police officer, let alone one-third of the department, at a time when killings, shootings and carjackings continue at a record pace.

“You know what we’re going through in this city right now,” said Napolitano, who has been a Chicago police officer and a firefighter “This is gonna be probably the bloodiest of all summers because we’re in lawless land right now. We just can’t afford to lose anybody right now at all.

“There’s no reason at all to fire anybody. The pandemic is coming to an end. We’re gonna hit variants. No one’s denying that. But the variants are weakening. People who were in the field during this whole thing have built an immunity to this. They’ve caught COVID, and they beat it without being vaccinated.”

In a written statement late Friday afternoon, the mayor’s office reiterated that employees who fail to comply will be placed in a nondisciplinary, no-pay status and may also face disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

“These decisions will be addressed at an individual and department level, and are being undertaken in a manner that will not impact public safety or the continuity of everyday government operations,” according to the statement.

The mayor’s office did not comment on the demands and the threat to call a special council meeting if Lightfoot ignores their request for a promise in writing.

Earlier this week, Lightfoot told the Sun-Times editorial board she expects “more and more” police officers to get vaccinated now that an independent arbitrator has upheld the city’s vaccine mandate.

Pressed on whether she was prepared to sideline nearly 3,000 unvaccinated police officers at once, the mayor hinted she would go slow and “not do anything that endangers public safety.”

Sposato said that, as of last Thursday, the Chicago Police Department was down to 11,788 sworn officers.

“We’re losing ’em at an unprecedented rapid rate,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose one — let alone hundreds. We only have 247 in the academy right now. ... We’re hurtin’. We can’t get people that want this job, so we can’t afford to lose anybody.”

Sposato said he’s gotten calls from about two dozen officers who have requested exemptions but haven’t heard from the city.

“They haven’t heard back, and they’re a little freaked out,” Sposato said. “The first month is no-pay status. … They’re off the street. … Second month, no pay and no insurance. After two months of that, you will be turned over to the police board … to be separated. I’m hoping it doesn’t get to that.”

Tabares said the mayor’s vaccine mandate has been “demoralizing” to rank-and-file police officers.

“We need to reach a compromise,” she said, also questioning whether religious and medical exemptions are being granted fairly and whether there’s been favoritism.

“A quarter of the Chicago Police Department could be laid off on Monday,” Tabares said in an interview. “That’s insane. We’re in a public safety crisis where criminals are more emboldened than ever before, skyrocketing crime.

“During the height of the pandemic, our first responders were out there without a vaccine, without PPE and expired hand sanitizer. They’re our heroes. And now our mayor is telling them we don’t need you anymore? That’s wrong.”

The Latest
Talking to reporters earlier Wednesday, Johnson recalled the 1985 Bears team that won the franchise’s only Super Bowl: “I grew up with the Super Bowl Shuffle. ... We want to make sure that we can keep shufflin’ here in the city of Chicago with the Bears.”
Schools CEO Pedro Martinez says “the pandemic caused a lot of challenges for our city and our district,” particularly for this year’s graduating seniors, who were high school freshmen when schools shut down.
Link gave his testimony in the trial of businessman James T. Weiss, who is accused of bribing Link and former state Rep. Luis Arroyo. Arroyo has pleaded guilty to the scheme and is serving a nearly five-year prison sentence.
The pieces speak for themselves, and the group performs best when they adopt a pithy approach.
For some primary healthcare providers, the annual physical is an overall assessment of health and a chance to reconnect with the patient, take stock of the previous year, assess any changes and set new goals and plans for the future.