CHICAGO — The fight between the City of Chicago and the police union over the Covid-19 vaccine mandate was back in court Thursday.
The Fraternal Order of Police asked a Cook County judge to block the requirement that forces officers —and all other city employees — to submit their vaccination status to the city.
Judge Raymond Mitchell pointedly questioned lawyers for the union and the city in hearing that lasted more than an hour. The judge said he would deliver a ruling on Monday morning, leaving the situation in limbo, according to the FOP President John Catanzara
“Still is limbo is about the best way you can put it,” he said.
Catanzara was the only person in the courtroom who spoke with reporters after the hearing. The city’s lawyers declined to comment.
“We’re simply asking this judge to force the city to stop the policy, allow officers to go back to work, and force the city to go back to the table in arbitration,” he said.
As of Thursday, 31 CPD officers are on “no pay status” for failing to comply with the city of Chicago’s vaccine mandate.
The FOP, which represents the majority of the city’s 13,500 police officers, filed an emergency motion asking a judge for a temporary restraining order to block the city’s vaccine mandate.
Judge Mitchell considered arguments from lawyers for the union stated that the city’s policy violated the officers’ labor contract by changing conditions of their employment without going through the collective bargaining process.
Judge Mitchell said to the union’s lawyer, “There is a certain saying in labor cases, ‘Obey now. Grieve later.’ What does that mean? It means you take a certain risk if you don’t comply.”
Lawyers for the city said the union dragged its feet in the in the bargaining process. They said union officials were in essence bad faith actors with “unclean hands” in the situation.
The city’s attorney argued that the mandate has an overwhelming public health benefit. But the judge seemed concerned that, while backpay could be a remedy in arbitration, a vaccine shot could not be undone, and therefore would not have a remedy in arbitration.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Lori Lightfoot appeared on a national cable TV show to argue for the mandate.
“I’m determined to make sure that we maximize our opportunity to have a safe workplace,” she said. “And the only way to do that is to have people vaccinated.”
Judge Mitchell complemented both sides on their arguments and promised a decision on the union’s request to block the “reporting provision” by Monday morning.