Negotiations between Illinois’ largest public employee union and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration will resume through an outside arbitrator after the two sides couldn’t come to terms on an order requiring workers at congregate care facilities to either get vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested regularly, Pritzker’s office said Monday.
The impasse affects more than 10,000 employees who work in state prisons and juvenile justice facilities and are represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. An independent arbitrator has been brought in to decide on labor issues stemming from Pritzker’s mandate.
Pritzker has twice extended the deadline for state workers at congregate facilities to be fully vaccinated since issuing his order in early August, most recently pushing it back to Nov. 30 — nearly two months after the original target.
AFSCME, which hasn’t previously responded to requests for comment on negotiations over the vaccine mandate, on Monday said in a statement that it has “secured paid time off for employees who contract the virus, must quarantine due to exposure, or have to care for a dependent who is sick or quarantined, as well as an added personal day off for employees who are fully vaccinated.”
Pritkzer’s administration said Monday it has reached an agreement on the vaccine order with about 7,800 workers represented by AFSCME who work in the state’s Department of Human Services and in Veterans’ Affairs.
With those agreements, almost 10,000 state employees who work in congregate facilities are now in line with Pritzker’s vaccination order, the governor’s office said.
“Our most vulnerable residents, such as those veterans who can’t live . . . on their own and adults living with developmental disabilities, have no choice but to live among workers at these facilities,” Pritzker said Monday during a news conference on pediatric coronavirus vaccinations. “They deserve the safest possible homes that we can provide, and that includes the protection of a vaccinated community. It is the most effective infection control measure that we have.”
During last year’s massive fall surge, Pritzker came under fire for his administration’s handling of a coronavirus outbreak at the state-run veterans’ home in LaSalle County that killed 36 residents. Those deaths came before vaccines were widely available.
Pritzker on Friday issued an executive order requiring workers in state-licensed day care centers to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. The state estimated the order applies to about 55,000 workers at nearly 2,900 day care centers licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
The Dec. 3 deadline for day care workers to get their first shot is followed by a requirement that they get their second dose of the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines by Jan. 3. Any worker who is not fully vaccinated — having received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine — by Dec. 3 will have to undergo weekly testing.
Pritzker has continued to face pushback from the Legislature’s Republican minority, who criticize the Democratic governor for acting unilaterally in response to the pandemic. A group of Republican women in the state Senate last week called the vaccine mandate for day care workers “an attack on working mothers as they resume a more normal work schedule.”
While hospital systems in the state have seen hundreds of workers quit over vaccine requirements, which in many cases are stricter than Pritzker’s order, hospitals say the overwhelming majority of employees complied.
A federal judge has scheduled a Tuesday hearing on a request for a temporary restraining order blocking Pritzker’s vaccine mandate for health care workers, along with Chicago’s mandate for city workers.