REVISED TESTING RULES
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. On October 26th, the City Council adopted a resolution to implement its Last, Best and Final (LBF) Counter proposal which focused on “corrective actions” for violations of the Ordinance. We reported in our September 30th Eblast how LIUNA 777 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. As we also explained, shortly after that, the City reworked its proposals and backtracked on some of its hardline proposals (The LA Times Article – Employees could get until mid-December to get shots—is on our Website).
We previously notified our membership that we have opposed the twice weekly testing and the requirement that our members pay for testing as UNACCEPTABLE and illegal. We also challenged the City’s requirement that all testing was to be done through the City’s Bluestone provider. The City has failed to be prepared enough to actually begin testing and has modified its procedures in an effort to actually implement testing.
The most current information is that the City will begin testing this Friday, November 19. It hopes to complete one round of testing between Friday and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. After next week, the City will attempt to have twice weekly testing for the two remaining pay periods before December 18th. For employees who filed for an exemption, the City will NOT make any payroll deductions for your testing even if you did not check off the Bill Me Later box on the Agreement. For employees who did not file for an exemption and have not shown full vaccination by October 19th, the City will engage in a payroll deduction for the two remaining pay periods prior to December 18th. All testing will continue to be through Bluestone.
Important Note: the City is providing collection sites for testing at all worksites, or at least an immediately adjacent worksite. The worksite testing is a spit test with pre-packaged test kit with instructions on how to complete, place in sealed plastic envelope, and place in box for shipping to Bluestone. Test results are expected within 24 hours of Bluestone receipt. The package instructions explain how to upload your test kit number and identifying information onto your Bluestone account.
IMPORTANT—Due to the City being not prepared to start testing, testing will not begin until this Friday, November 19th.
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. Due to the City being not prepared to start testing, testing will begin this Friday November 19th. Testing will be required for unvaccinated employees, partially vaccinated employees, non-responding employees, and employees waiting for a decision on an exemption request.
Are we aware of the lawsuit about the City’s choice of the Bluestone vendor? We are aware of Police Protective League filing a suit related to the Bluestone contract, and we will keep track of it and its possible impacts on the current process. We note, however, that the lawsuit won’t impact the substantive requirements of twice weekly testing and payment. It may only lead to the City having to change their vendor.
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.
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. And, we will continue fighting for your rights in this matter.
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