NYC requires vaccinations for teachers and staff in public schools

Officials announced Monday that all New York City teachers and staff will need to be vaccinated against coronavirus. This is as the nation's largest school system prepares to begin classes next month.

NYC requires vaccinations for teachers and staff in public schools

The city previously said teachers, like other city employees, would have to get the shots or get tested weekly for the virus. The new policy marks the first no-option vaccination mandate for a broad group of city workers in the nation's most populous city, though Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that coaches and students in football, basketball and other "high-risk" sports would have to get inoculated before play begins.

Unions reacted with anger to the requirement. They said the city should negotiate and not dictate. Two large city worker groups planned to file a labor dispute or pursue legal action.

According to an announcement by the Democratic mayor, the city's health and education department and others, approximately 148,000 school employees and contractors will need to receive at least one dose by Sept. 27.

De Blasio stated that she would do anything to ensure safety for everyone during a virtual news conference. Meisha Ross Porter, Schools Chancellor, called the policy "another layer protection for our children," which included her 11-year-old son.

Although the city has not yet indicated whether exemptions will be granted or what penalties will be in place for refusing to comply, de Blasio said Monday that there would be consequences.

De Blasio stated that the city will begin bargaining with school system unions this week over details, and officials hope to reach agreements. The mayor stated that the city will implement the requirement Sept. 27 with or without any agreement.

DC 37, a union that represents school aides and lunchroom workers, along with thousands of city employees, said it would file a complaint against the state Public Employment Relations Board for unfair labor practices. Chairperson Harry Nespoli stated that Monday's vote by the Municipal Labor Committee -- a group of unions representing about 350,000 city workers -- was to take legal action. This could lead to a lawsuit regarding the city’s different vaccination policies.

Nespoli said, "All we want is to sit down and try to negociate the best policy that will safeguard the city and its employees." He's been vaccinated but was concerned about the possibility of having to undergo testing rather than inoculation.

"We are also concerned about New Yorkers." He said that while we don't wish to see people become sick, there must be an alternative for those who aren't willing to get the jab.

The city did not immediately respond to questions about the planned actions of labor groups.

Other school unions stated that they also needed input and answers.

"I completely understand why you require it: It's a pandemic. Gregory Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, stated that it is up to us to negotiate accommodations for people who are not vaccinated. It includes approximately 4,400 school safety officers.

The United Federation of Teachers suggested that arbitration could be used "if necessary."

Robert Troeller, President of the Custodians Union, stated that he believes about 60% of the 850 Local 891 members of the International Union of Operating Engineers have had at least one shot. However, some "are set against" this.

Minimum 63% of school employees have been vaccinated. This includes those who have received their shots elsewhere.

Over 70% of adults in the city have received at least one dose.

The new requirement came as federal regulators gave full approval to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, one of three vaccines available in the U.S. All already have authorization for emergency use, but officials hope the full approval will increase public confidence in the vaccines.

For the approximately 1 million students in public schools around the city, school starts September 13.

Miguel Cardona, U.S. Education Secretary, praised the city's leadership in teacher vaccinations and tweeted that it was important to increase the number of immunized students in schools.

New York has, along with other states and cities, been fighting the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus by increasing pressure to get more people vaccinated.

New York City last week began requiring proof of vaccination t o enter restaurant dining rooms, gyms and many other public places, a first-in-the-nation policy that a few other cities have copied. Meanwhile, New York state announced last week that hospital and nursing home workers would have to get inoculated.

Vaccine mandates for teachers are fairly rare so far in the U.S., though Washington state, for one, says teachers must be inoculated or face dismissal.

Some schools have vaccine-or-test requirements. This is more common in Los Angeles and Chicago which are the largest U.S. school districts, after New York. The state of New Jersey joined the list Monday with a new policy affecting teachers and state employees.

Monday's announcement by New York's state court system was of a vaccinate or test rule for judges and staff. Similar policies are already in place for state employees as well as transit system workers.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 6 in 10 Americans say students and teachers should have to wear face masks while in school, and that teachers and eligible students should also be required to get vaccinated. The poll revealed that Republicans and Democrats differ on this issue.

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