Thousands of New York City public employees could lose their jobs on Friday if they don’t show they’ve met the city’s mandate requiring them to get at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Despite accounting for less than 1% of the city’s 370,000-person workforce, which includes teachers, firefighters, and police officers, the mass firings will draw a new line in the sand for the nation’s largest city, which has imposed some of the most sweeping vaccine mandates in the country.
At a news conference last week about the impending layoffs, New York City Mayor Eric Adams stated that city employees had largely complied with the mandate.
“There must be rules in a city as complex as this.” We must obey them. If you work for the city, you must be vaccinated. “You must adhere to that,” the Democrat stated.
Last year, former Mayor Bill de Blasio imposed a mandate requiring most city workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of October or face being placed on unpaid leave. New employees who began work after August 2nd were also required to comply and show proof of vaccination.
According to City Hall, there were up to 4,000 workers who had failed to comply by the end of January, but that number has decreased as more workers have begun to comply or produce their vaccine cards since they were notified last week that they would be fired.
Officials with the city said they won’t know how many employees are laid off until the deadline has passed. That is the end of the workday for the majority of employees on Friday.
A coalition of unions representing various segments of the city’s workforce filed a lawsuit to prevent the mass firings. However, a judge ruled in favor of the city late Thursday afternoon.
Separately, some unions reached agreements with the city to allow some employees to remain on unpaid leave until this summer or fall. However, not all union members took advantage of these bargains.
The United Federation of Teachers, which represents public school teachers in New York City, had negotiated with the city school district to allow members to remain on unpaid leave until September 5. However, the union stated that 700 of its members who had been on unpaid leave for months had chosen not to extend their leave or provide proof of vaccination and had been informed that they would be fired.
The union joined others in opposing the mass firings, arguing that workers deserved due process, including a hearing before being fired.
The city’s largest police union, the Police Benevolent Association, said less than 50 of its members had received termination notices.
According to the city, up to 3,000 employees failed to meet a deadline at the end of October and have been on unpaid leave for months. Additionally, up to 1,000 new employees who started work after August 2 face dismissal because they have not provided proof of having received two shots.
According to the local outlet, hundreds of people protested the mandate on Monday, saying there should be an option to do regular testing instead of getting the vaccine.
The firings come just days after New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) announced the lifting of some of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.
The state government will no longer require people to wear masks indoors, nor will businesses be required to check a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status.
Mask mandates in schools, on the other hand, remain in effect, as Hochul wishes to see higher vaccination rates among children.