This is another in our series of Eblasts keeping you informed on the City’s Mandatory Vaccination Policy. On August 25th the City published Ordinance 187134 mandating that all City employee and contract employees must be vaccinated for COVID-19. A copy of the Ordinance was attached to our September 9th Eblast and is available on our LIUNA 777 Website where we have a link dedicated to the Mandatory Vaccination Policy. Although the Ordinance became effective August 25, LIUNA 777 along with the Coalition of City Unions, has been in negotiations over the effects of the City’s decision to implement the policy.
As many of you may have read in the LA Times on Wednesday, the City has decided to file for impasse based upon a Last Best and Final Counterproposal to the Coalition. This LBF Counterproposal is focused on corrective actions for violations of the Ordinance. As we reported in our September 30th Eblast, the City had begun working to impose discipline on our members both for the failure to provide vaccination status information and for failing to comply with the vaccination requirement. As a result, LIUNA began the process for filing an Unfair Labor Practice, notified our Coalition partners, and asked them to join us in a charge against the City’s due to its failure to bargain in good faith over the effects of the decision to impose the mandate. Since nothing is a secret in this City, it appears that shortly after that, the City reworked its proposals and backtracked on some of its hardline proposals (See attached Article – Employees could get until mid-December to get shots).
While we recognize the positive movement of the effective compliance date from October 20th to December 18th, we want our LIUNA 777 members to know that the City’s current LBF Counterproposal is UNACCEPTABLE to your Chapter Board. Among other issues, we oppose the twice weekly testing and the requiring our members to pay for testing and thru a payroll deduction as UNACCEPTABLE and illegal. At this point, the City is intent on imposing its LBF and will ask the City Council to adopt this position at its Tuesday, October 26 meeting.
For LIUNA 777, our fight with the City continues over the vaccination mandate and its intent to impose its LBF Counterproposal. On your behalf, our Chapter Board has directed that we oppose the City in any LBF imposition and continue to fight for your rights.
As we identified in our prior Eblasts, the City will continue to move forward and has adopted the position that it has bargained to impasse. It is using this maneuver to impose its LBF Counterproposal while the Employee Relations Board process is undertaken. As we identified before, based upon the most recent California PERB Decision (Regents of UC Decision), the City risks having to pay back pay employees for any required testing payment, it may be required to pay back any employee that it issued a 5-day suspension, and it may also require the City to reinstate any terminated employee until such a time as it completes good faith bargaining if the Board rules against the City on its impasse. Our Chapter Board is resolved to fight the City’s decision to force twice weekly testing, impose the cost of such testing on our members, and its possible imposition of discipline for the failure to be vaccinated. On the failure to get vaccinated, however, we must stress that these mandates are being upheld in other jurisdictions, and fighting termination will be challenging. We also have other items which we were pursuing in the truncated negotiations that also would benefit you in the face of this mandate.
For now, here is what the City Council LBF Counterproposal will require. Any employee who has not responded to the City that they are fully vaccinated by October 20, will receive a Notice specifying that they are being required to be fully vaccinated by December 18th. In the period between October 20 and December 18, such employees will be required to test twice weekly on their own time through a City vendor. We understand that the City will provide collection sites for testing at all worksites, or at least an immediately adjacent worksite. The City will require employees to pay for the testing $65/test (twice weekly $130; $260 per pay period) through a payroll deduction. As outlined above, LIUNA 777 opposes this requirement, believes it is illegal, and will challenge it by all legal means. The Notice will specify that any employee not fully vaccinated by December 18 will be subject to “immediate corrective action.” At this point, LIUNA 777 believes that the City means suspension discipline, followed by termination. We oppose the position and will fight it. However, we want our members to know that these mandates are being upheld in other jurisdictions, and the fight against termination discipline is an uphill battle.
While we are and will continue to fight the City’s LBF Counterproposal, we also are encouraging all members to get vaccinated. We understand that many members may have substantial issues with taking the vaccine, and we will continue our fight against the City on this point. For those employees who oppose getting vaccinated and refuse to do so, we will provide representation at all points in the discipline process. If a member is issued a 5-day suspension, they must serve the suspension while we file the appropriate appeal. In any termination-related process, we will provide representation.
Several members asked if we were aware of the Settlement of a Unfair Practice charge by SEIU Local 1000 in California. Yes, SEIU Local 1000 challenged California’s July 26th vaccine verification process which was implemented without notice or bargaining the impacts. The headline on the press release is somewhat deceptive as the Union achieved essentially what we have negotiated in the effects bargaining over the City’s Ordinance requiring vaccination, not simply verification of vaccination. In our case, the Coalition Unions and all City Unions were notified and engaged in effects bargaining that included how vaccination information was collected. The heart of the Local 1000 settlement is found in Paragraph 3 of the Agreement which specifies that employees will not be subject to the State’s COVID-19 testing protocols if they demonstrate that they are fully vaccinated, the employee qualifies for a disability accommodation, or the employee qualifies for religious accommodation. The agreement also calls for negotiation related to ensuring employee privacy for the collection of vaccination status and for the exemptions process. This should sound familiar because we have negotiated these same things in our effects bargaining with the City. As part of its effects bargaining agreement with the Coalition, the City opened up a third-party web portal to collect vaccination related information in a secure and confidential manner (see link below). In reviewing the Settlement Agreement, you will NOT find an agreement by the State to provide paid time off for vaccination, paid time off for being sick due to vaccination or paid time off for quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19, which are part of what we negotiated because the State’s law on these employer-paid time off provisions expired on September 30th. Last, in our case, the City is using a procedural maneuver that available to it to impose by the impasse process its LBF Counterproposal; we are not agreeing that it can impose twice weekly testing or force our members to pay for testing using a payroll deduction.
The City has developed a safe manner to submit your exemptions request and contracted with a vendor, Bluestone, to provide a software platform for the collection of data and documents related to the vaccination mandate in a secure and confidential manner. You can submit your exemption forms by using the following link:
(forms submitted to LAWA HR will be uploaded by LAWA). You should receive email confirmation of receipt.
One member asked when will the testing begin for unvaccinated, or non-responding employees. We understand from the CAO’s office that if the City Council approves the imposition of its LBF Counterproposal through the ERB Impasse procedure, then testing will begin next week. Keep in mind that testing will be required for unvaccinated employees, non-responding employees, and employees waiting for a decision on an exemption request. You should look for information from your individual Departments on procedures for the testing requirement. We also will update you with any further information
One member asked if there is a separate 5-day then termination sequence for both the failure to provide vaccination status information and a failure to comply with mandate to get vaccinated. The shortest answer continues to be that it appears to be the City’s intent is that you could be disciplined separately for both the failure to provide your vaccination status and the failure to comply with getting vaccinated. Again, with any discipline, LIUNA 777 will provide our members with representation in that process.
What about employees who have requested an Exemption? Any employee who signed up on the initial City link for a Medical or Religious Exemption will not be subject to this October 20th deadline and will be covered under the mandatory testing program until their exemption application is approved or denied. The City’s LBF counter proposal requires employees seeking an exemption to pay for the twice weekly testing, but if approved, the employee will be reimbursed this cost.
What about me, I had COVID and my antibodies are as good as the vaccine? If you contracted and recovered from COVID-19, you can apply for an exemption through Medical exemption process. The City will review, on a case-by-case basis, any employee seeking a Medical exemption on the basis of having COVID-19 antibodies. There is no guarantee that all COVID-19 recovered employees will qualify for the medical exemption. But, the City agreed with us that such employees may seek the medical exemption.
Some of you have expressed frustration that our MOU allows the City to impose this mandate. We understand and share your frustration at the current situation. This pandemic has been frustrating for all of us, and this latest challenge of a mandatory vaccination policy is the next highly frustrating part of this pandemic. Like all the other City MOUs, and MOUs across the state and country, none have provisions addressing mandatory medical policies in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. In fact, most MOUs across the state and country have standard National, State or Local Emergency provisions that allow agencies like the City to act more unilaterally than in normal times. So, it’s not an MOU prohibition or allowance that is at issue.
Through our MOU and through our bargaining, we are fighting for our members’ rights. For example, California’s Supplemental Paid Leave law expired on September 30th, but we have negotiated and achieved a City Administrative leave covering our members so we don’t need to count on Sacramento to make sure our members have coverage. We also have negotiated and secured an objective process for the medical and religious exemption that includes an appeal process. We also challenged the City to accept in the medical exemption the possibility of a COVID-19 recovered employee being exempt based upon their own antibody count since some individuals have as good as or better antibody counts from having had COVID-19 than from a vaccine. We know that these may be considered small things, but we dedicated to fighting for all things both big and small in our quest to protect our members and their families.
As we continue to identify in our Eblasts, your LA Chapter Board is focused on protecting the rights of our individual members and our unit as a whole in response to the City implementing this policy, and we are focused on the legal landscape because we want to make sure that we are actively protecting everyone’s rights in this important area. Although we have achieved protections through the effect bargaining process, e.g., the City agreed to our proposal that it guarantee to all employees designated sick leave for time spent getting vaccinated and for any time off due to any negative reaction to the vaccine as the current California law expires today—we will fight using the Unfair Practice process for protections the City has demonstrated it is unwilling to provide through negotiation.
We recognize that the mandatory vaccination issue is critically important to our members, and as your representatives, we are advocating for your rights and will continue to do so. We continue to receive requests for information by individual members and will continue to respond to those requests. There will be more to come, and we will keep our entire MOU 12 family informed as this matter develops. Please share this response with your fellow MOU 12 members.
Esteban Lizardo, Business Representative
David Yuen, LA Chapter President
& Principal Detention Officer, LAPD
Art Sweatman, LA Chapter Vice President
& Tree Surgeon Supervisor, Street Services