Feb 14, 2022 - COVID

Philadelphia firefighters still fighting city over vaccine mandate

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Philly's firefighters union is expected to file a lawsuit against the city Monday, challenging the Kenney administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Why it matters: Friday marked the first deadline for all unionized city employees to have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose or submit a medical or religious exemption, said Kevin Lessard, an administration spokesperson.

  • Employees who fail to meet the requirements by noon on Feb. 28 will be placed on leave starting March 1 and could be fired.

Driving the news: The impending lawsuit by the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 22 is the union's latest pushback against the city's vaccine mandate.

  • Mike Bresnan, president of the firefighters union, told Axios the legal action would be filed in the Court of Common Pleas.

By the numbers: The Philadelphia Fire Department has the lowest vaccination rate, 61-70%, compared to all city departments.

Zoom in: Bresnan said the lawsuit aims to derail the city's attempt to lump his members into a blanket vaccine mandate.

  • The union also filed an unfair labor practice claim with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board last week over the city's mandate, Bresnan said.
  • He added that the firefighters union is expected to begin labor arbitration proceedings in the coming weeks with the city over the mandate, which could determine whether the union must comply with the mandate.

Between the lines: Philly's three other major unions have reached an agreement with the Kenney administration over the mandate.

What they're saying: Bresnan said that any vaccine requirements from the city should go through the collective bargaining process and that getting the jab was a personal choice.

  • "Local 22's not against the vaccine. We're just against you telling our members, 'You do this or you’re going to get fired,'" he said.
  • He called for the city to allow firefighters to wear N95 face masks and get tested weekly in lieu of getting the jab.
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