Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

116 Non-Vaccinated Workers Face Suspension

And possible termination. 95.3% of general city employees complied with vaccine mandate.

By - Nov 1st, 2021 04:16 pm
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. photo by Lisa Ferdinando. U.S. Secretary of Defense, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. photo by Lisa Ferdinando. U.S. Secretary of Defense, (CC BY 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

The City of Milwaukee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for its employees is now in full force. Suspensions can begin for those that did not comply.

Workers were required to submit proof of vaccination by Oct. 29. And almost all of them did.

Of the 3,156 general city workers the policy applies to, 95.3% had complied by either providing proof of vaccination or obtaining an exemption.

That leaves 116 that are out of compliance and an additional 31 awaiting an accommodation decision.

“At this time, departments are in the process of determining who should be placed on disciplinary suspension,” said Department of Employee Relations director Makda Fessahaye via email. “Employees who are not in compliance with the policy will be placed on 30-day disciplinary suspension. Further non-compliance of the policy will lead to discharge.”

The number of people not in compliance was nearly cut in half over the final 24 hours before the policy went into force. As of the morning of Oct. 29, 231 employees were in that category. Going back one week prior, only 65% of employees had provided the required documentation.

Department of Public Works operations director Danielle Rodriguez told a Common Council committee in October that DPW managers were meeting with employees to make sure they uploaded the required documents to a city portal.

But a bigger issue looms on the efficacy of the policy: almost half of the city employees aren’t required to be vaccinated.

There are three classes of employees that aren’t subject to the vaccination requirements yet: police officers, firefighters and non-sworn Milwaukee Fire Department and Milwaukee Police Department employees.

The sworn officers and firefighters are protected by collective bargaining, prohibiting the city from unilaterally imposing a new work requirement. The Milwaukee Police Supervisors’ Organization approved a voluntary agreement requiring its members to be vaccinated or wear a mask, with penalties only associated with not wearing a mask. Neither the general Milwaukee Police Association nor any firefighters union has adopted a vaccination requirement.

The non-sworn employees of both the police and fire departments aren’t protected by union contracts, but are protected by state law.

Fessahaye told members of the Finance & Personnel Committee last week that an effort was underway to have the Fire & Police Commission institute the vaccination policy for non-sworn fire and police employees. The city, based on a legal opinion from the city attorney, determined it couldn’t unilaterally implement the requirement on those employees given that department policies are set by the commission.

The City of Milwaukee publicly announced its policy on August 24 and put it into effect on September 1. It applies to temporary workers and interns in addition to general city workers, but not city contractors. The city offered two hours of paid leave to those newly receiving vaccinations.

“We have an obligation to provide a safe workplace for all employees, and a vaccinated workforce is part of that,” said Mayor Tom Barrett in announcing the policy in August. “A vaccinated workforce also helps protect members of the public who interact with employees, as well as family members of city employees.”

Barrett called the response rate “good news” in a statement provided Monday. “The latest count shows a little more than 100 employees have neither been vaccinated nor received an exemption,” said Barrett. “Individual departments are adjusting plans in order to continue providing necessary municipal services.”

A number of other entities have adopted vaccination requirements including Milwaukee County and the Wisconsin Center District.

According to Wisconsin Department of Health Services data, 57.8% of Wisconsin residents and 49.6% of Milwaukee residents of all ages have received at least one dose of any of the three COVID-19 vaccines. As Urban Milwaukee previously reported, a growing percentage of city workers, primarily public safety employees, now live outside of the city.

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Categories: City Hall, Health, Weekly

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