An update on public-sector union vaccine mandate responses

An update on public-sector union vaccine mandate responses

In our Sept. 17 newsletter, we explored a number of public-sector union responses to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Today, we’ll update you on notable developments on the national, state, and local levels. 

AFGE response to federal vaccine mandate 

On Sept. 9, President Joe Biden (D) signed Executive Order 14043, which says that to promote workforce health and safety, it is “necessary to require COVID-19 vaccination for all Federal employees, subject to such exceptions as required by law.” 

On Oct. 30, two American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) affiliated unions, AFGE Local 501 and Council of Prison Locals 33, filed a lawsuit against Biden and five other defendants in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in response to the mandate. Both unions represent federal prison employees.  

The unions allege the executive order and related policy “[deprived them] of their due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as well as their Fourteenth Amendment liberty right to privacy, self-autonomy and personal identity, including the right to reject mandated procedures and treatment.”   

The case name and number are AFGE Local 501 et al. v. Biden et al. (1:21-cv-23828). The case is assigned to Judge Joan A. Lenard, who President Bill Clinton (D) nominated to the court.

SEIU Local 1000 response to California vaccine mandate

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced on July 26 that all state employees would be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing, effective Aug. 2. SEIU Local 1000 sent a cease and desist letter to the California Department of Human Resources that said, “This is a change in the terms and working conditions of our represented employees and requires meeting and conferring with the union prior to implementing the change.” SEIU Local 1000 reached a settlement agreement with the state in September. A California Department of Human Resources spokeswoman said the agreement would “[allow] the state to continue with the testing program while reaching an important compromise on changes that were important to our employee groups.” SEIU Local 1000 said, “The next fight will be at the table. …  We continue to fight against unfair testing and vaccination requirements.”   

For more information about the 20 states that have issued vaccine requirements for state employees, click here.

Fraternal Order of Police response to Chicago vaccine mandate

Chicago, Illinois’ employee vaccination policy required city employees to either be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15 or undergo testing twice a week. The testing option is scheduled to end on Dec. 31 for all employees without a medical or religious exemption.

On Oct. 14, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police and three other Chicago police unions filed a lawsuit in response to the mandate, alleging that the policy “imposes new terms and conditions of employment on [officers], without completing collective bargaining negotiations and engaging in the impasse resolution procedure of the parties’ respective collective bargaining agreements.” The unions sought to block the city from enforcing its policies, including requirements for reporting and testing, until the mandate could be negotiated. Mayor Lori Lightfoot responded, “I am confident that we have the law and the facts on our side.”    

On Nov. 1, Cook County Judge Raymond Mitchell blocked the Dec. 31 deadline from being enforced against police union members until the issue is resolved through arbitration. Officers must still comply with requirements to report their vaccination status and undergo testing, if unvaccinated.   

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 102 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s) 

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. 

  • Wisconsin SB660: This bill would give certain school district, educational service, college district, and university system employees the right to bargain collectively over wages, hours, and employment conditions.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Introduced, read first time, and referred to the Senate Labor and Regulatory Reform Committee Nov. 2.