Judges Rule In Favor of Newark’s Vaccine Mandate After Challenge From Police, Fire Union Leaders

“We also hold that the Unions failed to make the showing required for preliminary injunctive relief,” the judges’ opinion reads. “Consequently, we affirm the portion of the PERC Order that held that the City had a managerial prerogative to implement its COVID-19 vaccination mandate. We reverse and vacate the restraints PERC placed on the City, including the requirement to negotiate the Negotiable Terms.” 

The ruling dealt a heavy blow to Newark union leaders who voiced their grievances with the mandate just days after it went into effect. Earlier this month, police and fire union leaders held a rally on the steps of City Hall where they called for a sit-down with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka’s office to negotiate the terms and conditions of the mandate. 

“The decision is disappointing, but not unexpected considering the questions and statements made by the judicial panel during the hearing last week,” Newark Fraternal Order of Police President James Stewart Jr. told TAPinto Newark. “Although courts seem to agree across the land that employees can be forced to take the vaccine, or be fired, ruling its managerial prerogative, we feel the rights of the employee should not just be dismissed as something to 'discuss later.’” 

Stewart told TAPinto Newark that issues such as being ordered to get tested while off-duty, or getting put out on unpaid leave time are things that are in contrast with the language in many of the unions’ contracts.

Although it wasn’t immediately clear if the unions will petition the state Supreme Court for a second appeal, he said that union leaders will “look ahead to see where PERC takes this decision moving forward."

Union leaders argued that there was no express statutory authority for a COVID-19 vaccination mandate. They also argued that the state Employer-Employee Relations Act requires the city to negotiate the vaccination mandate before it’s implemented.

The union’s arguments were met with no relief from the judges. 

“The Unions have not shown that implementing the vaccination mandate will violate their rights under the EER Act,” the opinion reads. “The Unions have not cited to anything in their contracts that prohibit the City from issuing a vaccination mandate under these extraordinary circumstances.” 

Following Monday’s ruling, it remains unlikely that the city will have any sort of sit-down with union leaders to negotiate certain provisions of the mandate. 

Baraka has previously voiced his stance on the order in recent weeks, citing an uptick in rising COVID cases related to the delta variant and pointing out that the Newark Department of Public Safety had already suffered multiple COVID-related deaths. 

“Of all people, the union leaders whose rank-and-file members are hired and sworn to protect the public should know this better than anybody,” he wrote in an op-ed on NJ.com. “They lost nine members to the disease. Not only that, but public safety is their job. My executive order demands that they do it.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-09-28 02:10:10 -0700