Judge Grants Big Legal Victory For Police Unions Against Chicago’s Vaccine Mandate

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Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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An Illinois judge put a hold on the vaccine requirement Monday for the Chicago Police Department through Dec. 31.

Judge Raymond Mitchell granted a temporary restraining order sought by police unions that the city cannot fire employees who do not receive the coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year. The order is meant to allow the unions to address their grievances through arbitration with the city.

Mitchell ruled that the city’s deference to the “obey now, grieve later” maxim in labor law is not applicable in this scenario, because once officers are vaccinated, they cannot be unvaccinated, and therefore they would have no grievance by the Dec. 31 deadline.

“An award of back pay or reinstatement cannot undo a vaccine,” Mitchell wrote. “Nothing can. If that aspect of the City’s policy was found to violate the collective bargaining agreements, the arbitral process could not restore the parties to their original positions.”

“‘Obey now, grieve later’ would be transformed into ‘obey now and forever’ – without a meaningful opportunity to arbitrate.” (RELATED: Biden Says First Responders, Police Who Refuse Vaccine Mandates Should Be Fired)

“I do not credit any suggestion that the City’s vaccination policy is anything other than an effort to safeguard the health of its employees. Likewise, I do not accept that the police unions’ grievances and alternate proposals are anything other than an effort to protect their members,” Mitchell wrote, noting that while public health is of concern, “the principal risk to those who are unvaccinated is to themselves and to others who choose to be unvaccinated.”

The ruling does, however, allow the city’s mandate for other city employees to remain in place and allows the city to discipline officers who do not disclose their vaccination status or submit to testing twice a week.

Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot scolded the police union in October for allegedly trying to “induce an insurrection” over the mandate after the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Chicago Lodge President John Catanzara advised officers to refuse the mandate. Both FOP and Lightfoot have sued each other over the mandate.

“We believe that the FOP leadership is trying to foment an illegal work stopping strike, pure and simple,” Lightfoot said at a press conference. “We’ve laid that out in the materials, and we’re not having that. The contract is clear. It’s been known for a long time. The police unions are not authorized to strike. It’s in their collective bargaining agreement. It’s in state law.”

“What we’ve seen from the FOP and particularly its leadership is a lot of misinformation, a lot of half true and frankly flat-out lies in order to induce an insurrection, and we’re not having that.”