Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Vaccine Mandate Announced for County Employees

Mandate covers all county employees, except those in the sheriff's department.

By - Sep 3rd, 2021 07:42 pm

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Sulfur at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Sulfur at English Wikipedia (GFDL) or (CC-BY-SA-3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Milwaukee County leaders announced a vaccine requirement Friday for most county employees that will take effect in October.

County Executive David Crowley said the new requirement would protect employees and residents that access county services, supporting the county’s stated goal to become the healthiest county in Wisconsin.

“A requirement for all employees to be vaccinated, aside from those with reasonable and approved exemptions, is consistent with our vision and our responsibilities as public servants,” he said in a statement.

The requirement goes into effect Oct. 1, by which time county employees must produce documentation verifying that they are vaccinated, or file a medical or religious exemption. The mandate doesn’t apply to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), because the requirement is not part of the collective bargaining agreement between the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs’ Association and the county.

Public safety unions covering police and firefighters were exempted from the Republican backed Wisconsin Act 10 passed in 2011 that weakened the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions.

Under the county’s new policy, vaccination status will also become a condition of future employment with Milwaukee County in October, even for those applying to work for the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office. All contractors working in “high-risk or congregate living facilities” will be required to show vaccination status by Oct. 11, while requirements for other county contractors will be determined by individual departments.

Speaking to the media Friday after the announcement, Crowley said the goal of the requirement is to better protect county residents and employees from COVID-19. 

“With three highly safe, highly effective vaccines available, the full approval of the Pfizer vaccine, and the Delta variant surging in our community, now is the time to strengthen vaccine policies and expectations,” the county executive said.

County Board Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson noted there are three vaccines that have proven to be safe and effective, and that one of them, the Pfizer vaccine, recently received full approval, having previously received emergency approval. “Increasing vaccination rates protects our most vulnerable state residents, helps stop the spread of COVID-19, lessens the severity of illness and the risk of hospitalization and death, and protects all those we serve in Milwaukee County,” she said.

The new policy does include several possible consequences for employees that choose not to be vaccinated. These include unpaid suspensions, small docks to pay and possibly even termination, the county executive said.

Compliance with the vaccine mandate will also be used during consideration for promotions, new positions or temporary assignments to higher pay classifications.

While the requirement does come with the possibility of consequences, there are also some moderate incentives baked in.

Crowley said his administration believes the mandate can “influence behaviors without being overly burdensome.”

The county has been and will continue to offer additional paid time off and a $50 incentive payment to county workers that are vaccinated, as it has done since July. The county is also beginning a “Vax Champions” program that will give another $25 to any employees that encourage a co-worker to be vaccinated before Dec. 31.

Kelly McKone, director of organizational performance, said the county has been working on a vaccination policy for more than a month, and that approximately 50% of county employees have volunteered their vaccination status already. 

Milwaukee County Supervisor Ryan Clancy sponsored a resolution in August that called on the county executive to establish a vaccine requirement. Clancy didn’t specify exactly what he wanted the vaccine policy to look like, though he did say it should be “equitable in its implementation” and that there should be incentives if there’s also going to be punishments.

In a statement, Clancy said of the announced vaccine requirement, “A combination of incentives for vaccination as well as a mandate is our best way to keep our community – including our employees and vulnerable populations that we serve – as protected as possible.”

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Categories: Health, MKE County

One thought on “MKE County: Vaccine Mandate Announced for County Employees”

  1. GodzillakingMKE says:

    Any cop that says no, fire them.

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