Lightfoot’s move came after she ended month-long negotiations with police unions. In response, four Chicago law enforcement unions sued Lightfoot to force her to come back to the negotiation table.
According to the city’s vaccine mandate, all city workers had to report their vaccination status by Oct. 15, and get fully vaccinated by Dec. 31 (except for those who obtained medical, or religious, exemptions.)
Any city employee that fails to meet those two deadlines will be put on a non-disciplinary, no-pay status.
The city’s lawsuit alleges Chicago’s largest police union encouraged members to ignore the Oct. 15 deadline, and threatened an unlawful strike at a time when Chicagoans need every police officer on duty to combat rising crime. Chicago police are not allowed to strike under Illinois law.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 (FOP) refuted the allegation on Twitter.
“President John Catanzara has never engaged in, supported, or encouraged a work stoppage. Lori Lightfoot is the only one who has said she will send our dedicated officers home without pay if they choose to reject her unlawful orders.”
Days before the Oct. 15 deadline, FOP president Catanzara encouraged members to disobey the order in his weekly videos on YouTube. He claimed half the police force would follow his advice and be sent home on no pay that day.
FOP represents around 11,000 active rank-and-file Chicago police officers, of which 9,000 are patrol officers. The members count for a third of the city’s total employees.
Catanzara said to members in a video: “I can guarantee you, the no-pay status will never last 30 days. There is no way they are going to be able to sustain a police department workforce at 50 percent capacity, or less, for more than seven days without some budging.”
Lightfoot did budge at the last minute, allowing disobedient police officers to report to paid work on Oct. 15. Within hours, she took the fight to court.
The city’s lawsuit asks the court to order FOP members to fully obey the vaccine mandate; it also asks to prohibit Catanzara from encouraging any further disobedience.
On Aug. 25, Lightfoot announced her vaccine mandate for city workers. It was simple and clear: all employees must get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 15.
Since then, FOP has led the vaccine negotiations with the city, joined by three other Chicago law enforcement unions: that of Chicago police sergeants, lieutenants, and captains. Chicago’s firefighter union and others declined to join.
FOP put a number of options on the table: consideration of natural immunity, incentives for voluntary vaccination, honoring exemption requests based on conscience, and weekly testing options for those who refuse vaccination.
The city only took the last one, changed it into two-week testing, and attached a sunset clause to it. So the final official vaccine mandate says city workers can opt for bi-weekly tests until Dec.31. The mandate was published on Oct. 8.
Lightfoot then unilaterally closed the door for negotiation, according to Catanzara’s weekly video addresses.
On Oct. 11, four law enforcement unions threatened to file a lawsuit to protect their collective bargaining rights. They did that on Oct.14, within hours of the city’s action against the FOP.
Mayor Lightfoot has had a rocky relationship with FOP since she assumed office in May, 2019. Lightfoot and Catanzara often publicly point fingers at each other over contract negotiations or the treatment of police officers. In May, 2021, FOP issued a no-confidence vote in Lightfoot.