A Cook County judge on Monday told Chicago leaders that they cannot force police officers to be vaccinated by year end, emphasizing that you can’t “undo a vaccine” and “meaningful arbitration” must commence.
In a suit challenging the city’s vaccination mandate, Judge Raymond Mitchell told Chicago Police Department’s labor unions and city leaders to continue to negotiate an agreement on COVID requirements and restrictions, while staying the December 31 vaccination deadline for officers.
There are “two competing public interests, but one interest need not be scuttled in favor of another,” Judge Raymond Mitchell wrote in his ruling, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Mitchell said it was okay for the city to require officers to report their vaccination status and undergo testing for COVID but said that forcing the vaccination before continued arbitration is a no-go.
“The reporting obligation itself is a minimal intrusion, particularly considering that police officers already are obligated to provide medical information to their employer,” the judge wrote.
“‘Obey now, grieve later’ is not possible,” Mitchell emphasized. “If every union member complied and was vaccinated by December 31 … they would have no grievance to pursue and there would be no remedy an arbitrator could award. An award of back pay or reinstatement cannot undo a vaccine. Nothing can.”
The judge added that it was his “intention is to enter to narrowest possible order to preserve the unions’ right to a meaningful arbitration. The balance of the City’s vaccination policy remains fully in effect, including the reporting and testing obligations.”
Democrat Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot defiantly downplayed the ruling, stressing that the “mandate continues” and she’s focused on “saving peoples’ lives.”
“The mandate continues,” Lightfoot said, according to the Sun-Times. “Our lawyers are looking at the judge’s ruling. They’re looking at what our legal options are. But what I know is, we cannot stop. … This is about saving peoples’ lives.”
The mayor then accused her opposition of telling “half-truths” and allowing people to “die” because they oppose the vaccination mandate.
“How many more members have to die before you come to the table?” Lightfoot said. “If you’re serious about it, come to the table every single day, starting today, and let’s get a deal done.”
“What they’re serious about is obstructing, obfuscating and telling half-truths. … I do not want people to die in my city when there is a life-saving, free, safe vaccine readily available,” the Democrat said.
“If you look at what’s happening in court cases all across the country — whether it’s firemen, police or others that are challenging these mandates — I’m not aware of a single instance in which a mandate put in place has been invalidated,” Lightfoot added. “The silent, overwhelming majority of folks in city government recognize the need for the vaccine and, frankly, don’t want to work next to somebody who they don’t know what their vaccine status is.”
Related: Chicago Police Restrict Time Off For Cops As Mayor Threatens To Put Half The Force On Unpaid Leave Over Vaccine Mandate