Los Angeles backs off on vaccine deadline... a little

AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File

Like so many other blue cities around the country, Los Angeles issued a vaccine mandate for municipal employees that was about to take effect in the coming weeks. But they ran into some serious resistance from different employee unions, including the police, and the negotiations stretched on a bit longer than anticipated. Finally, on Tuesday, the City Council held a meeting and voted unanimously to extend the deadline for getting vaccinated until December 18. But the “generous” extension didn’t come without some strings attached. Anyone not providing proof of vaccination by the new deadline will face “corrective” action which will ultimately lead to dismissal if they refuse to comply. And those who are still waiting will be under some new requirements immediately that will come at a financial cost that will be deducted from their paychecks. (LA Times)

Los Angeles police officers, firefighters and other city workers who have yet to get vaccinated against COVID-19 will have more time to get the shots under a plan approved Tuesday by the City Council.

City workers who still haven’t followed the requirements at the end of Dec. 18 will face “corrective action,” according to the plan. Until then, unvaccinated workers will have to get tested twice a week for the coronavirus, on their own time and at a cost of $65 per test deducted from their paychecks, according to the approved plan.

Workers seeking medical or religious exemptions will also have to get tested twice a week, but the city will reimburse them for testing costs if they are ultimately granted exemptions.

So all of the police and other workers will have to be tested twice per week until the deadline and they’ll be charged $130 per week for the tests. I’m not sure how the system is currently set up in California, but that sounds odd to me. In New York, we still have mobile testing sites set up where anyone can drive through at any time and get a test from inside their car at no charge. But Los Angeles is going to make their workers, including the cops, shell out more than $900 between now and just before Christmas for COVID tests? It just seems a bit punitive to me.

Anyone is able to apply for either a religious or medical exemption, but that doesn’t mean that the applications will be approved. If they are, the city is claiming they will refund the costs of the tests. If not, they’ll be unemployed shortly thereafter, so that $900 probably would have come in handy while they’re figuring out how to get by on unemployment benefits, assuming they still qualify.

Mayor Eric Garcetti clearly isn’t in the mood to back down. He’s going along with the postponement until December 18, but after that he says everyone needs to be prepared to receive a pink slip as their Christmas bonus.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement last week that the vaccine mandate “is critical to protecting the health and safety of our workforce and the Angelenos we serve.”

“Employees must be vaccinated by Dec. 18, and we are putting a rigorous testing program into place in the meantime. Let me be clear: Any employee who refuses to be vaccinated by this date should be prepared to lose their job,” the mayor said.

One union representative reported the results of a recent employee survey indicating that 5,000 city workers are now planning to pursue medical or religious exemptions. If I had to hazard a guess, it would be that a significant majority of them will be rejected unless they can come up with a doctor’s report showing that they have significant underlying conditions that could make the vaccination even more dangerous than not getting it. And they probably won’t be accepting a copy of a mass exemption letter issued by a chiropractor for the cost of an office visit. It’s still also unclear which of the major religions have come out against vaccinations and would be offering exemptions.

Both the local police union and Service Employees International Union have declared that the negotiations are at a stalemate. I would guess that the next stop will be in a courtroom, but challenges to mandates haven’t fared well in courts thus far. The municipal government of Los Angeles is clearly ready to play hard ball. And if they drive off too many people, they will be the ones shouldering the blame for the consequences.