A clash between Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago and the head of the city’s largest police union over coronavirus vaccinations intensified on Friday as the city filed a complaint against the union, arguing that it was threatening an illegal strike.
City employees in Chicago are required to report their vaccination status by the end of Friday, but John Catanzara, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, has urged police officers to ignore the order and risk discipline or loss of pay. Employees who are not vaccinated will be subject to twice-weekly testing, but vaccinations are not required.
Mr. Catanzara released a video on Tuesday predicting that Chicago police officers would not report to work because of the policy. He said that if a large number of police officers refuse to submit to testing or reporting their vaccination status to the city, “it’s safe to say the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50 percent or less for this weekend coming up.”
“Whatever happens because of the manpower issue, that falls at the mayor’s doorstep,” he added.
He escalated the dispute on Thursday, releasing another video that urged officers not to comply with any direct orders from their supervisors to provide their vaccination status in an online portal.
But, on Friday, the police union said in a statement: “President John Catanzara has never engaged in, supported, or encouraged a work stoppage.” The police union also announced that it had filed its own legal request for the courts to hear the case.
Ms. Lightfoot, who has often faced resistance from Mr. Catanzara since taking office in 2019, said in a statement on Friday that his actions threatened public safety.
“As Chicago’s mayor, I cannot and will not stand idly by while the rhetoric of conspiracy theorists threatens the health and safety of Chicago’s residents and first responders,” Ms. Lightfoot said in a statement. “President Catanzara has time and again deliberately misled our police officers by lying about the requirements of the policy and falsely claiming that there will be no repercussions if officers are insubordinate and refuse to follow a city and department directive or order.”
On Friday evening, a judge in Cook County ordered Mr. Catanzara to refrain from making additional statements on social media encouraging police officers to refuse to enter their vaccination status in the city portal.
A strike from the police union is illegal under both state law and the union’s contract with the city, Ms. Lightfoot said.
Chicago is following other cities throughout the United States in requiring city employees to be vaccinated or submit to frequent coronavirus testing. Last week, Ms. Lightfoot softened the original policy requiring vaccination, saying that public workers could opt out of the city’s mandate until the end of the year by getting tested regularly.
What to Know About Covid-19 Booster Shots
The F.D.A. authorized booster shots for a select group of people who received their second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months before. That group includes: vaccine recipients who are 65 or older or who live in long-term care facilities; adults who are at high risk of severe Covid-19 because of an underlying medical condition; health care workers and others whose jobs put them at risk. People with weakened immune systems are eligible for a third dose of either Pfizer or Moderna four weeks after the second shot.
The C.D.C. has said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster shot include: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney or liver disease; dementia and certain disabilities. Pregnant women and current and former smokers are also eligible.
The F.D.A. authorized boosters for workers whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The C.D.C. says that group includes: emergency medical workers; education workers; food and agriculture workers; manufacturing workers; corrections workers; U.S. Postal Service workers; public transit workers; grocery store workers.
It is not recommended. For now, Pfizer vaccine recipients are advised to get a Pfizer booster shot, and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients should wait until booster doses from those manufacturers are approved.
Yes. The C.D.C. says the Covid vaccine may be administered without regard to the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy sites are allowing people to schedule a flu shot at the same time as a booster dose.
City officials have said that employees who fail to report their vaccination status by the Friday deadline will be placed on unpaid leave.
In Baltimore, a police union leader told officers not to disclose their vaccination status to city officials amid negotiations over a vaccination mandate scheduled to go into effect there next week, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Law enforcement officers have died of Covid-19 in large numbers throughout the pandemic, making the virus by far the most common cause of duty-related deaths in 2020 and 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a website that catalogs the deaths of law enforcement officers.
Police officers in many departments have been slow to get vaccinated, and several other cities have issued vaccine or testing mandates. In San Jose, Calif., city leaders decided just as a vaccine mandate was taking effect to allow unvaccinated officers to remain employed through the end of the year, with incremental discipline and testing requirements.
John Yoon contributed reporting.