Last week and into this week we have been bargaining with the County over the impact of the Governor’s mandatory vaccination requirement for healthcare workers, which covers many of our members, and the Chair’s mandate that all County employees become fully vaccinated by October 18, 2021.
Our reasons for bargaining over mandatory vaccination
We have demanded to bargain over the impact of mandatory vaccination because even when an employer is well intentioned, it can still make serious mistakes implementing a new system. You don’t have to look farther than the County’s implementation of Workday in 2019 to see an example of this, so making sure workers’ voices are heard on a matter as important as this one is vital.
We recognize that union members have many points of view on the COVID-19 vaccination mandate. If you have questions or concerns about this vaccination requirement, feel free to reach out to our Local 88 Vaccination Response Team that was assembled to help answer questions firstname.lastname@example.org. In order to support confidentiality, we strongly recommend that you send your questions to us from your personal email address rather than you County email address. We also want to make you aware the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission has provided guidance that employers can mandate this vaccination.
Our bargaining demands focus on removing barriers for workers seeking vaccination, making sure there is a reasonable process for medical and religious/spiritual exemptions, allowing workers that decide not to get vaccinated the opportunity to take leave or a layoff rather than being dismissed for cause, and advocating for our members needs during this pandemic. These demands are in alignment to the mission of our Union.
The County is not addressing other workforce issues
We identified to the County that our members are disgusted that the County continues to fail to recognize the service of workers on the frontline that have been unable to telework with pandemic pay! We have worked extremely hard to provide essential services and protect our community which is why we have asked for this pay and another extension of Emergency Protected Sick Leave and Expanded Family Medical Leave.
We also understand that many of our frontline services members have had to deal with staffing shortages and substantial overtime. As of the last report we received from the County on August 11, there were 578 vacant positions County wide, up from 327 in the spring, this is close to 10% of the total County workforce. This high number of vacancies clearly identifies that the County has a recruitment and retention problem. Rather than rejecting our proposals and not bringing other ideas to the table, the County should work with our Union to address this problem.
On Monday we also asked again that the County push back the date for many workers returning to a County worksite from the October 1, 2021, date they had previously identified. We understand that based on the communication Thursday from Chief Operating Officer Serena Cruz that they will be moving this date back to October 18, 2021, however, we feel this will likely need to be revisited.
Where things stand currently at the bargaining table
On Monday, August 25th, our Lead Stewards and representatives from the Juvenile Custody Services Specialists, Physicians, and Dentist bargaining units met with the County and received a proposal from the County that included:
Expectations for employees to notify the County of their vaccination status.
The medical and religious/spiritual exemption process including a provisional approval if the acceptance of the exemption isn’t finally approved by October 18, 2021. Employees are required to make that submission by September 10, 2021.
Administrative leave to get vaccination mutually scheduled with your supervisor and 16 hours of leave if you have side-effects from vaccination.
If an employee has started the vaccination process but is not fully vaccinated by October 18, they would be allowed to use vacation, comp-time, saved holiday leave or unpaid leave through November 24, 2021.
Employees that have not submitted their vaccination status or haven’t had their first vaccination shot would be laid off effective October 18, 2021.
On Wednesday, August 27th, our Union provided a counter proposal to the County that included:
An alternative process for submitting proof of vaccination from submission rather than through Workday, if elected by the employee.
Employees that plan to submit exemption medical/religious exemption requests should try to complete that process by September 10, 2021 but are not required to make that submission before the layoff date.
An extension of Emergency Protected Sick Leave and Expanded Family Medical Leave through March 31, 2022.
$200 incentive to employees that have vaccinated or become vaccinated before October 18, 2021.
If an employee has started the vaccination process but is not fully vaccinated by October 18, they would be allowed to use sick leave, in addition to vacation, comp-time, saved holiday leave or unpaid leave through November 30, 2021.