Cook County judge temporarily halts Chicago mandatory vax date for police officers, sending city into arbitration with police union

Cook County judge Raymond Mitchell ruled in favor of a Chicago police union request for an emergency order to halt Chicago’s vaccine mandate policy so officers can return to work while the union and the city continue to negotiate the issue.

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The ruling temporarily halts some aspects of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate which requires all police officers to be vaccinated by year’s end.

The Chicago police union wants its officers who were put on a no-pay status to return to work while the union and the city engage in arbitration.

However, some parts of the mandate policy are still being upheld. Officers will still be required to report their vaccine status and weekly testing if they are not fully vaccinated. The halted portion of the mandate relates to the December 31st fully vaccinated deadline. 

As of October 28th, 72% of Police Department employees had reported their vaccination status with 80% of that 72% being vaccinated. 

In judge Raymond Mitchell’s ruling, he explicitly discusses the need for the two parties to go into arbitration over the Dec. 31st date. 

“‘Obey now, grieve later’ is not possible. 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.”

Judge Raymond Mitchell explains that “‘Obey now, grieve later’ would be transformed into ‘obey now and forever’- without a meaningful opportunity to arbitrate”, which the judge believes “constitutes irreparable injury.”

“This absence of meaningful arbitration is not just an injury to members, it is also an injury to the union itself. It undermines the unions’ collective bargaining power and risks diminishing the union in the eyes of its members.”

However, judge Raymond Mitchell explained his hesitancy in making a ruling in the matter stating that “judicial intervention in labor disputes is disfavored,” but that his “intention is to enter the narrowest possible order to preserve the unions’ right to a meaningful arbitration.”

Judge Raymond Mitchell was, however, “persuaded that the police unions have demonstrated a need for temporary injunctive relief as to the December 31, 2021 vaccination requirement.”

Read the full ruling:

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