Phoenix City Council could shoot down COVID vaccination mandate

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Phoenix City Council member Sal DiCiccio Rebekah Zemansky / Shutterstock

Members of the Phoenix City Council are demanding a vote on a previous decision to adhere to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate. 

In response to City Manager Jeff Barton’s decision the city is considered a federal contractor and must adhere to Biden’s mandate, Councilwoman Ann O’Brien wrote Mayor Kate Gallego to demand the council have a say on the matter.

The mayor agreed with O’Brien and added the issue for consideration at a future meeting.

“I am not anti-vaccine; I am anti-mandates,” O’Brien said in her Nov. 24 announcement. “I am pro-personal choice, and I believe that Phoenix employees will do the right thing and make decisions that are right for them and their families.” 

A discussion will be held December 7 by the city’s policy workgroup. 

Barton used the significant amount of federal dollars the city received to justify the decision to implement the Jan. 18 vaccination deadline.

“Due to the number of federal contracts held by the city of Phoenix, we are considered a federal contractor,” a letter from Barton read. “As such, all city employees are subject to the provisions outlined in the Executive Order, which requires all employees, regardless of telework status or if you previously tested positive for COVID-19, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 18, 2022, except in limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to an accommodation.”

In reaction to Barton’s edict, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) and the United Phoenix Firefighters Association Local 493 (UPFA) joined Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s lawsuit against Biden’s vaccination mandate. The addition of the unions expanded the legal challenge to include federal contractors.

Unless the federal contractors or employees prevail in their legal challenge to Biden’s mandate, vaccination holdouts among the city’s 13,000 workers – including police and firefighters – who do not receive an exemption face suspension and eventual termination. 

In a Nov. 22 letter to Barton, Councilman Sal DiCiccio warned the mandate would lead to a severe worker shortage that could put residents in danger.

“The decision will compromise vital city-wide services to our residents, including public safety, which this Council has been aware of the alarming crime data and how the city is struggling to hire and retain personnel,” DiCiccio wrote.

By Cole Lauterbach | The Center Square

Republished with the permission of The Center Square