The first major test of a vaccine mandate applied to municipal employees will take place this weekend in Chicago, where up to half of the city’s police force is set to defy the mandate by failing to report their vaccine status.
Officers and other city employees who fail to report their vaccination status by Friday will “be placed in a non-disciplinary, no pay status,” according to the mayor’s office.
“It’s safe to say that the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50% or less for this weekend coming up,” said Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara. He added, “I do not believe the city has the authority to mandate that to anybody — let alone that information about your medical history.” The union has filed suit against the city to halt enforcement of the mandate.
It should be stressed that what is being mandated at this point is city employees reporting their vaccination status. It’s assumed that if they are not vaccinated, they will be given an ultimatum to get the shots by a certain date.
The confrontation sets up a major test for cities across the country that have mandated all city employees must be vaccinated or lose pay or their jobs — or both. Mayor Lori Lightfoot was asked what would happen if 50 percent of cops didn’t show up for the job.
“I don’t expect that to happen,” the mayor responded. “And again, I’m going to be focused on the positive … that all our city employees … do their duty and make sure that they get vaccinated.”
“I’ve been very clear,” Lightfoot added. “The only way that we can maximize safety in our workplace is to get people vaccinated.”
She doesn’t know what to do if the walkout becomes a reality. If she backs down, she knows that she opens herself up to a tsunami of lawsuits from other unions and individuals. Would she take the chance that the union’s threat would materialize?
The Chicago police officers who are still working after all the force has been through in recent years do so because of something more than fealty to a union or a political leader. The “real police” among them will be on the job because their community and their brothers and sisters on the force are counting on them.
That doesn’t help Lightfoot, who may be scrambling to protect the city on Monday.
Lightfoot (D) said at a news conference on Wednesday that the city was “prepared,” adding that Catanzara was “doing a patent disservice to his members every single day” by encouraging resistance against the vaccines.
“If you are not vaccinated, you are playing with your life, the life of your family, the life of your colleagues, and members of the public,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot has been unnecessarily confrontational with the Chicago police union. With gangs using city streets as shooting galleries and citizens as clay pigeons, you would think the mayor would bend over backward to partner with the police to deal with this unprecedented crisis.
But working with the police would upset the sensibilities of the radicals who want fewer police, less money for law enforcement, and castrated officers.
So she will remain in conflict with the very people she desperately needs to protect the citizens of the city. No one ever accused Lori Lightfoot of being the brightest bulb in the room. She’s proving that again.