Yesterday, your union bargaining committee met with the State over the Governor's proclamation that requires all State workers to be fully vaccinated by October 18. Our bargaining committee is committed to getting you as much information as we can so you can make an informed decision on whether to vaccinate.
Many members have expressed priority interest in how the exemptions work and if your job will be protected if granted an exemption.
We spent significant time in negotiations on the topic of medical and religious exemptions. We insisted the Department provide more clarity on the process, including explaining what medical information will be required and what accommodations can be expected if an employee's exemption is approved.
The State indicated there are very few positions in the DOC that can be maintained by an employee who is not vaccinated. The State took this position based on the assertion that most jobs require employees to be in close proximity and/or physical contact with others in the course of their duties. Because of the State's position, it is crucial to understand that receiving approval for a medical or religious exemption will exempt you from the mandatory vaccination, but it is not guaranteed to protect your job.
We will continue to work on this issue but felt it prudent to communicate this immediately in response to the many member inquiries on the topic.
Some of the other proposals we made in negotiations include:
- That the State provide a contingency plan that presents clear assurances that our members will continue to have a safe working environment after October 18;
- For those previously vaccinated: Reimburse employee leave banks for all time charged to receive their vaccination(s) and any time used to recover from the side effects of the vaccination;
- For those subject to the mandate: Employer paid leave time to vaccinate and recover from any side effects;
- That the State allow more flexibility around the October 18 deadline for members who have made reasonable efforts to become vaccinated.
The pandemic has impacted us all in many ways. In confronting it, we have had to make unprecedented decisions for ourselves, our families, and our communities. In addition to processing the trauma associated with the pandemic, the Freedom Foundation and similar organizations are adding to the confusion with unsubstantiated claims of being able to block the mandate for their own political gain. This is not a time for empty promises that delay and confuse working people at a time when you are forced to make a critical decision for yourself and your family.
We encourage you to talk to your doctor or other medical professional about your vaccine options.
We will continue negotiations on Tuesday, August 31 and will provide you with an update afterward.
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