The state’s top state employee union is pushing back against Governor J.B. Pritzker’s vaccination mandate for some state workers.
Earlier this week, Pritzker mandated vaccinations for employees in the Department of Corrections, Department of Human Services, Department of Veteran Affairs, and Department of Juvenile Justice due to their work in congregate living facilities. Pritzker said during the press conference announcing the mandate on Wednesday that the employees refusing to be vaccinated in these facilities were letting those in their care down because the residents of the facilities have no choice but be exposed to them: “Our most vulnerable residents, such as our veterans, who can’t live on their own, and adults living with developmental disabilities have not choice but to live amongst these workers. By and large, residents of these state-run facilities have done what they can do to protect themselves by getting vaccinated, and yet many of the long-term care facilities’ employees have themselves not been vaccinated. They run the risk of carrying the virus into work with them, and then, it’s the residents who are ending up seriously sick, hospitalized, or worse. It’s a breach of safety. It’s fundamentally wrong, and in Illinois, it’s going to stop.”
In a memo sent by AFSCME Council 31 to state workers, they say that the rigid mandate won’t work.
AFSCME says education about the vaccine, rigorous testing, and appropriate mitigations have been effective in reducing spread of COVID-19 in those agencies’ facilities. AFSCME says many of these state facilities’ vaccination rates now exceed those in the surrounding communities citing little to no new cases since the arrival of the Delta variant.
AFSCME says they have initiated negotiations with the governor’s office and want to opt for more time with voluntary compliance by state workers. AFSCME also see the mandate as a way to end “COVID Time” to be removed for state workers, which they strongly oppose. They say it could lead to workers coming to work sick if they do not have any benefit time on the books.
AFSCME has proposed a vaccine or regular test requirement in place of the mandate.