NYC Teachers Union to Take Legal Action Against Call for Layoffs of Unvaccinated Staff

September 4, 2021 Updated: September 5, 2021

The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) is resisting full compliance with New York City’s vaccine mandate for public school teachers and staffers.

Michael Mulgrew, president of UFT, said city hall has asserted that unvaccinated staffers will be taken off the payroll without exception, including those with religious and medical exemptions.

“The city, however, announced during our negotiations its intentions to refuse to honor medical and religious exemptions for Department of Education (DOE) staff from COVID-19 vaccination,” Mulgrew said in a statement directed to UFT members.

The union is going to try to arbitrate the impasse together with other labor groups.

“Its proposed policy states that staff with medical issues can stay on the payroll until their sick days are exhausted and then go on unpaid leave, while staff with religious objections would immediately go on unpaid leave. In both cases, those on leave would lose not only their pay but also their health insurance,” he said.

He further noted that the “no exceptions mandate” for all the members of the Department of Education violates federal and state law, as well as their contract.

The UFT has declared an impasse in negotiations, and at the same time, the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC) has recommended to its general members that the MLC take legal action to challenge the city Department of Health’s power to mandate the shots.

“With the first day of school fast approaching, we are as frustrated as you are with the mayor’s perpetually last-minute announcements and late planning. We assure you that we are working to get as many answers for you about this upcoming school year as soon as possible. We will be keeping you informed via email about the latest developments and updates on safety, instructional plans, and more,” Mulgrew said.

Epoch Times Photo
Michael Mulgrew (L), president of the United Federation of Teachers, listens as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during a news conference at City Hall in New York, on May 1, 2014. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

Custodians’ union President Robert Troeller said he was concerned that the city had announced the requirement without bargaining. He said he believed about 60 percent of the 850 members of Local 891 of the International Union of Operating Engineers had gotten at least a first shot, but some others “are dead-set against this.”

About 70 percent of adults have gotten at least one dose of vaccine in the city.

Some other unions have favored mandating all staff and teachers to get vaccinated.

“The health and safety of New York City children and the protection of our employees is at the core of the vaccine mandate,” said the press secretary at NYC DOE, according to the New York Post. “We will continue to negotiate with the UFT to reach a successful agreement because that is what’s best for our school communities.”

The Epoch Times reached out to the NYC Mayor’s Office for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Enrico Trigoso
Enrico Trigoso is an Epoch Times reporter focusing on the NYC area.