Vaccine Mandate Announced for County Employees
Mandate covers all county employees, except those in the sheriff's department.
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.
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.
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.”
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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