Barrett Imposes Vaccine Mandate For City Workers
All except police and fire fighters must have proof of COVID-19 vaccination by October 29.
City of Milwaukee employees will soon need to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
The policy goes into effect September 1 and gives city employees until October 29 to produce proof of vaccination. City workers that do not comply could be suspended for up to 30 days initially and face termination for continued noncompliance.
“We have an obligation to provide a safe workplace for all employees, and a vaccinated workforce is part of that,” said Mayor Tom Barrett during a press briefing Tuesday. “A vaccinated workforce also helps protect members of the public who interact with employees, as well as family members of City employees.”
As of June, the city had a total of 6,239 active employees. But the requirement, in its current version, does not apply to union-protected employees including police officers and firefighters.
“Probably in the neighborhood of 3,000 to 4,000 employees will need to be vaccinated,” said Barrett. He said he believed more than 50% already had received the vaccine.
The policy also applies to temporary workers and interns, but not city contractors.
The city requirement comes after Monday’s announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that the Pfizer vaccine is fully approved.
“I think we are all hopeful that this will help those that were hesitant get vaccinated, ” said Health Commission Kirsten Johnson.
The city will offer up to two hours of paid leave for those newly receiving vaccinations. A new state program, introduced Monday, offers a $100 Visa gift card to any Wisconsin resident receiving the first dose before September 7.
Barrett, earlier this month, said he was working on the structure of a city worker vaccination policy. On August 2, Alderman Robert Bauman introduced a resolution calling for a vaccination or regular testing requirement for employees.
“We have been in consultation with council members throughout our work on this,” said Barrett on Tuesday. The council will return from its August recess on September 1.
But the measure won’t require council approval. It is structured as a workplace rule promulgated through the Department of Employee Relations.
Unlike Bauman’s proposal, the city requirement does not include a testing-based opt-out for anyone that doesn’t wish to get the vaccine.
The exact language of the policy was not immediately available, but Barrett said it includes exemptions for specific religious or medical reasons.
“Fortunately we have not had to cut the trees to build the road,” said Barrett of the exemptions. He said more would be available soon on the specific exemptions, but it would mirror those seen at other employers.
Milwaukee County Vaccine Policies
Milwaukee County has not implemented a vaccine requirement for county employees. But County Board Supervisor Ryan Clancy recently drafted a resolution that calls on County Executive David Crowley to establish a policy requiring all county employees to prove they are vaccinated.
Clancy’s resolution is slim on specific parameters for such a policy, and instead said it “must be equitable in its implementation,” and if employees face restrictions or consequences for not being vaccinated it must be “in conjunction with, or preceded by” vaccination incentives.
During a media briefing Tuesday, Crowley was asked why the county did not have a vaccine mandate. He responded saying that county officials have been discussing such a policy since the Delta variant began to push cases higher, but they are still collecting data on how many employees are already vaccinated.
The county has already implemented vaccination incentives for employees and people in the county’s custody at the jail or the House of Correction.
Graham Kilmer contributed to this report.
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