Phoenix to reconsider its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for 14,000 employees
Less than a week after announcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for more than 14,000 city employees, Phoenix is backpedaling.
When City Manager Jeff Barton issued the mandate last week, the thinking went like this: Phoenix is a federal contractor because it works closely with the federal government and so, the city will follow the federal mandate requiring all federal contractors to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 18.
But police and fire unions immediately pushed back and joined a lawsuit fighting the mandate, and Councilwoman Ann O’Brien calls it a complete overreach of government.
In an email sent to KJZZ, O’Brien said she asked Mayor Kate Gallego to put the issue on a meeting agenda so the public can weigh in.
“Employees and community members deserve the opportunity to voice their opinions and to hear from each Council member. The public MUST be included in the conversation,” O’Brien wrote. “I am not anti-vaccine; I am anti-mandates. I am pro-personal choice, and I believe that Phoenix employees will do the right thing and make decisions that are best for themselves and their families.”
Phoenix’s police department remains understaffed, and O’Brien expressed concern about the mandate hurting employee morale and city services.
The vaccine mandate is scheduled to be the only topic for the Dec. 7 City Council policy session. The meeting will begin at 2:30 p.m. and be streamed live on the city’s website and YouTube channel. After public discussion, the council could vote to keep the mandate or cancel it.
The email sent to all city employees last week announcing the mandate said those who are not in compliance will be subject to progressive discipline up to and including termination. To be considered for medical or religious exemptions, employees will have to submit documentation by Dec. 31.