Some unions push back on vaccine mandate for NY workers
NYSCOPBA President Michael Powers called the move "disheartening"
By Kevin Tampone
Albany, N.Y. — Some labor unions in New York are questioning Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to require Covid-19 vaccines or regular testing for all state workers.
Cuomo said Wednesday he wants to get the requirement in place by Labor Day. He said his administration is in talks with unions and acknowledged there would be some pushback.
If workers don’t get vaccinated, they’ll have to get tested for Covid weekly.
Cuomo also said patient-facing health care workers at state hospitals won’t have the option to forgo the vaccine for testing. They’ll have to get the shot.
Public Employees Federation President Wayne Spencer said in a statement that any vaccine mandate must be bargained between labor and management. The union represents professional, scientific and technical state employees.
Spencer also said the union encourages its members to get vaccinated. He said the union recognizes employers can require Covid testing, but it must not put members’ health at risk.
Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, called the vaccine requirement a “drastic measure,” according to the Times Union in Albany.
“It’s time that we stop making these decisions in a vacuum and start including stakeholders,” Powers said, according to the paper.
Powers also said the move was "disheartening," according to The Associated Press. He noted it was just a month ago when the state was celebrating vaccinations with fireworks displays and called Cuomo’s announcement an “about-face.”
The Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers was “caught off guard” by Cuomo’s announcement, according to The Buffalo News. The union is exploring its legal options because it believes the mandate is a change in employment terms and conditions, said Thomas Mungeer, the PBA’s president.
Mary Sullivan, the president of the Civil Service Employees Association, was supportive of the vaccine requirement. CSEA represents state workers in hospitals, transportation, public works and more.
Sullivan said the state cannot slide backward in fighting the pandemic now, according to AP.
New York’s state Legislature will require either vaccinations or regular testing, AP said. The state’s court system also plans to require unvaccinated judges and court employees to undergo regular testing.
Cuomo announced the vaccine or test requirement as new Covid cases are rising rapidly in New York. They’re up more than fourfold since the start of the month.
The more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is to blame, Cuomo said.
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