“We’re Not Doing Any Mandates”: Labor Unions at Odds Over Vaccine Requirements for Workers

Top labor unions are at odds over new vaccine mandates being introduced around the country, Politico reports.

California and New York City have announced that they will require all government workers to be vaccinated or face weekly Covid testing and President Joe Biden is expected to announce a similar requirement for all federal employees on Thursday.

The AFL-CIO, the top confederation of US labor unions, on Tuesday said it would back Biden’s push for vaccine requirements.

“If you're coming back into the workplace, you have to know what's around you,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told C-SPAN. “First of all, if you come back in and you're not vaccinated, everybody in that workplace is jeopardized. Second of all, if we don't know whether you've been vaccinated or not, we can't make the proper accommodations to make sure that you are protected and everybody else is protected.”

But other unions, including members of the AFL-CIO, have “clashed” with the White House in recent days, including the American Federation of Teachers.


Some labor leaders have called the requirement premature.

The American Federation of Teachers opposes mandatory vaccinations and the International Association of Fire Fighters has publicly vowed that it will not require its members to get vaccinated regardless of policy.

“We're not doing any mandates. We're not advocating any mandates for vaccination,” IAFF spokesman Tim Burn told Politico. “At this point we want to make sure that our members have what they need to stay safe on the job. And we are encouraging them to vaccinate and communicating with our local affiliates.”

California, NYC unions oppose:

Local unions have also resisted requirements in New York City and other areas.

The AFSCME District Council 37, the largest public employee union in New York City, said it opposes mandates.

The president of the Service Employees International Union 1199, which represents workers in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area, condemned the University of Maryland Medical System’s requirement for employees.

“As our union’s president George Gresham said, ‘A hard-handed approach will not work and will only create greater frustration for the healthcare heroes who have been battling this pandemic every day for the last 15 months,’” the 1199 SEIU chapter representing Maryland and D.C. said in a statement to Politico. “We agree that vaccination paired with free, regular, and accessible testing are important tools to help us move past this pandemic.”


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