Police officers prepare barricades to control the arrival of people during a protest against the coronavirus vaccine mandate in New York, N.Y., October 25, 2021. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)
The largest police union in New York City sued the city Monday to block enforcement of the vaccine mandate for municipal workers recently imposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
With the city revoking the weekly testing option a week ago, unvaccinated firefighters, sanitation workers, police officers, transportation employees and others now face a looming November 1 deadline to get the first shot. Those who refuse will potentially be placed on unpaid leave or terminated from their posts.
The Police Benevolent Association of New York filed the lawsuit in Staten Island, arguing that the order is particularly punitive as it does not afford legitimate exceptions on religious or medical grounds nor a weekly testing option.
“The Vaccine Mandate will impose irreparable harm on police officers. A police officer with sincerely held medical, health, or religious concerns with the vaccine will face irreparable harm if forced to submit to vaccination prior to the Court’s determination whether a the Vaccine Mandate is unlawful,” the lawsuit reads. “These officers have rights to medical autonomy and religious observance that would be violated by forcing them to submit to a vaccination. Once a vaccination occurs, that bell cannot be un-rung.”
Approximately 50,000 employees of the New York City government remain unvaccinated. The NYPD vaccination rate is below the adult average for the city at 69 percent, while FDNY has one of the lowest at 59 percent.
On Monday, de Blasio said he believes the mandate, that makes vaccination a condition of employment, is persuading the hesitant in the city work force. “We’ve seen the mandates move a lot more people to get vaccinated,” he said.
The PBA’s legal action comes one day after thousands of demonstrators converged on the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the city’s vaccine mandate. Attendees carried banners and shouted slogans while marching, claiming that the requirement amounts to “medical tyranny.” Many of the posters expressed frustration over what protesters believe to be unfair treatment of front-line workers, who were deemed “essential” in keeping the city afloat at the height of the pandemic.
Some of the signs at the march read: “From pandemic heroes to NYC zeroes,” “Last Year’s Heroes,” “This Year’s Unemployed,” “We’ve Served since Day One. Let Us Keep Serving,” and “Will Our Vaccine Status Matter While Saving Your Life?”
Members of many city unions attended the rally downtown Monday. Like the PBA, a coalition of unions representing employees in public schools sued over the mandate recently but failed to secure a temporary injunction to stop it.
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