23 Chicago labor unions sue to block Lightfoot’s vaccination mandate

23 Chicago labor unions sue to block Lightfoot’s vaccination mandate

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is being challenged by 23 labor unions over her Dec. 31 vaccination deadline. They claimed she is infringing on union members’ collective bargaining rights.

A coalition of 23 Chicago labor unions have filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court seeking a temporary suspension of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Dec. 31 COVID-19 vaccination deadline for city employees.

The plaintiffs including Teamsters Local 700, Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Local 130 and Service Employees International Union Local 1. They filed for an injunction Nov. 5 to force arbitration over Lightfoot’s citywide mandate, pushing to delay the New Year’s Eve deadline for members to get fully vaccinated until the dispute is resolved.

The filing arrives days after a Cook County judge ruled the city could not enforce the mayor’s deadline for Chicago police officers to get the shot without first going through arbitration with union representatives.

The new petition cites a Nov. 1 ruling by Judge Raymond Mitchell in favor of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, arguing the mayor’s mandate infringes on the various unions’ collective bargaining powers, which are protected under state law.

The coalition’s compliant states Mitchell’s court decision for the police “addressed the identical question of irreparable harm” that Lightfoot’s vaccination mandate would inflict on the bargaining units.

An Illinois appellate court Nov. 9 denied the city of Chicago’s petition to reverse Mitchell’s ruling.

The group argues a suspension of the Dec. 31 deadline is necessary while the parties negotiate or else it will be too late to “undo the harm” caused by the forced inoculations.

“The unilateral changes made by the Defendants have eroded the morale of employees in the Plaintiff Union bargaining units,” the petition reads. “The City’s unilateral action has diminished support for the Plaintiff Unions as the exclusive bargaining representatives for the employees in their respective bargaining units.”

Lightfoot announced her COVID-19 mandates for city workers in August, requiring all city employees to report their vaccination status by Oct. 15. The directive further stipulated workers be fully vaccinated by Dec. 31 or undergo regular coronavirus testing in the upcoming year.

The legal challenges accumulating against Lightfoot’s COVID-19 mandates mirror growing pushback seen at the state level, where unions continue to dispute Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s mandates.

The governor pushed for and signed Nov. 8 an amendment to the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act in an effort to stymie numerous standing lawsuits that cite the conscience law as grounds for preserving Illinoisans’ choices about vaccinations. Illinois Fraternal Order of Police President Chris Southwood responded Nov. 9 by calling Pritzker a “dictator” and threatened political payback.

“Freedom-loving citizens all across the state have been stripped of their basic right to conscientious choice and can now be discriminated against because of their conscientious refusal to have COVID vaccines forced on them,” Southwood told WMAY.

The amendment will help Pritzker to combat legal challenges and let employers discipline employees for refusing to comply with COVID-19 rules, including mandatory vaccinations and testing.

Despite the flurry of legal challenges to Lightfoot’s mandates, more employees are complying, according to city data. As of Nov. 8, the citywide response rate on reporting vaccination statuses was close to 90%. Of those who complied, the share of vaccinated employees was 72%.

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