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May 20, 2022
New York City To Terminate Thousands Of Unvaccinated City Workers Today

New York City To Terminate Thousands Of Unvaccinated City Workers Today

New York City is expected to fire up to 4,000 city employees Friday because they have refused to comply with the city government’s vaccine mandate, following through with the vaccine requirement after it drew widespread controversy from labor unions—though the employees represent only a small minority of the city’s total workforce.

New York City workers hold an anti-vaccine-mandate protest on February 7.


Key Facts

Up to 3,000 city workers already on unpaid leave may be terminated, as well as an additional 1,000 newly hired workers who haven’t submitted vaccine documentation, according to Bloomberg, though the exact numbers are still unclear.

Adams said Friday the city would release the exact number of affected employees over the weekend to account for any paperwork delays, but there was an “amazing response” by workers and the city was “encouraged by the numbers,” suggesting many may have gotten vaccinated at the last minute.

Even if 4,000 workers are terminated, that’s only about 1% of the city’s total workforce of 370,000 employees, and is down from 9,000 workers who went on unpaid leave in November when the mandate took effect.

The vaccine mandate does allow for medical and religious exemptions, and the city announced in November it had negotiated with four labor unions to allow their unvaccinated members to remain on unpaid leave with health benefits until June.

Adams said Thursday the city was “not firing [workers]; people are quitting” by choosing not to “follow the rules of getting vaccinated.”

Among the city workers who are affected by the vaccine mandate are teachers, police officers, sanitation workers and firefighters, and Adams said Friday the city would evaluate whether terminated workers should be replaced or if their jobs could be cut.

Big Number
95%. That’s the approximate percentage of the city’s workforce who’s fully vaccinated, according to Bloomberg and the New York Times, up from 84% in October.

Crucial Quote
“I would do a disservice to those who follow the rules if we don’t have a clear direction . . . we have to be very clear,” Adams said at a press conference Thursday. “People must be vaccinated if they are New York City employees—everyone understood that, and we have to follow that.”

Chief Critics
The vaccine mandate has drawn heavy opposition from a number of labor unions, who have repeatedly sued the city in a bid to block the mandate. Though their legal efforts have so far failed, more than two dozen unions representing city workers including teachers, firefighters and police officers filed a new lawsuit this week in Manhattan Supreme Court attempting to stop the terminations. Workers also protested against the mandate on Monday, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall from the FDNY’s headquarters in Brooklyn.

Key Background
New York City is one of a number of major cities that have mandated vaccines for its workforce, along with places like Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, which have also experienced heavy pushback over the requirements. New York City has a high vaccination rate, with approximately 85% of all residents having received at least a first dose, and the city has maintained strict vaccine rules that include showing proof of vaccination to enter places like restaurants, bars and Broadway shows, and a vaccine requirement for private employers. Adams, who took office at the start of the year, has kept those policies in place after they and the city employee mandate were imposed by his predecessor, Bill de Blasio. The city’s vaccine mandate for government employees had initially been only for teachers and healthcare workers and allowed for an option to get tested for Covid-19 regularly in lieu of vaccination, but de Blasio expanded it in October to require all workers to get the shot unless exempt.

Further Reading
New York’s Unvaccinated City Workers Face Firing on Deadline Day (Bloomberg)

Nearly 3,000 N.Y.C. Workers Have a Day to Get Vaccinated or Be Fired (New York Times)

New York City Mandates Covid-19 Vaccine For All City Workers, Removing Testing Option (Forbes)

Here’s Who’s Most—And Least—Likely To Support Vaccine Mandates In The Workplace (Forbes)

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