CSEA takes legal action to block New York’s vaccine mandate


ALBANY – The Association of State Public Service Employees has filed a petition on behalf of its members who work in the state’s justice system, asking for an injunction to suspend the vaccination mandate that is due to go into effect on Monday.

A similar petition was also filed in the Albany State Supreme Court this week on behalf of a group of doctors and nurses, as well as a nursing home administration, who work in the area. from Buffalo. Assembly member David DiPietro, a Republican from Erie County, is also listed as a plaintiff in the case.

Related: Dr Howard Zucker resigns as New York health commissioner

The lawsuit takes place as Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration has not backed down from a mandate announced in July by former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. It demands that a multitude of workers in contact with the public, primarily in hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, receive at least their first vaccination by September 27 – and for more others have an Oct. 7 deadline – or risk being suspended. or dismissed from their job.

The mandate covers both public and private health institutions. Thousands of nurses and other health professionals have refused to be vaccinated; officials at hospitals and group homes that care for people with disabilities have said a staffing crisis that existed before the coronavirus pandemic will be exacerbated if many of those workers are on leave next week.

On Wednesday, the Hochul office did not respond to questions about whether the governor could delay the mandate or if he had a plan in place if large numbers of nurses and other medical professionals were suspended from their duties. functions from Monday.

In a press conference Thursday morning, the governor said she “will announce a whole series of initiatives to prepare for a situation on Monday which I hope will not happen.

“They are obviously very caring people or they obviously would not have chosen this profession,” she said. “Everyone who comes under your care has the right to know (…) that there is no chance that they will be infected by the person responsible for protecting them and their health. (…) ) I don’t want to be with people who are not vaccinated … they also have a right to a safe workplace. “

Managers in the healthcare industry, including many private hospitals, are separately preparing for a possible staffing crisis.

“The science is clear, vaccines work and we need as many people as possible to get vaccinated as soon as possible. But that could turn out to be the paradox of the mandate, ”said Michael Balboni, executive director of the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association, in a statement released Thursday morning. “We want to make staff and residents safer through vaccination, but if people start to quit their jobs and there aren’t enough workers to take care of the residents, we put them at risk.”

Balboni, who is not asking for the cancellation or postponement of the mandate, said his organization and industry administrators are calling for a personnel contingency plan, which may include requests for mutual aid, increased distribution of personal protective equipment, real-time monitoring by the state health department and an increase in testing.

Hochul’s administration this week was locked into negotiations with several state unions, who said the state’s mandate should have been subject to collective bargaining and not simply imposed under a provision of state health law.

In the case filed by the CSEA this week, they said the Public Employment Relations Board had determined that the state’s unified judicial system immunization mandate for judges and non-judicial employees “was improper practice” and had authorized the union to seek a temporary injunction in the state. Supreme Court. The CSEA is requesting a stay of tenure until an administrative judge renders a decision in its PERB case.

In case filed on behalf of Buffalo-area health professionals, they say the United States Food and Drug Administration earlier this month reported a “1,000 percent increase” in adverse reactions to vaccines against coronaviruses at a meeting where she recommended not to require booster shots for people under 65.

This petition also states that the mandate does not provide exemptions for religious beliefs or for those “who have already been infected with COVID-19 and who have natural immunity.”

Natural immunity “is at least as effective as vaccination in preventing future COVID-19 infections,” the petition says, adding that a person who gets vaccinated to keep their job but experiences an adverse reaction “will be fine. no legal recourse for such injuries or damage they suffer as a result of the vaccination.

On Wednesday evening, after The Times Union asked the governor’s office for comment, it released a statement saying that separate agreements with the CSEA and the Federation of Public Employees would allow nurses and other health professionals in public hospitals to be eligible to work overtime at 2.5 times the regular rate of pay, up from 1.5 times. But this incentive, which would be retroactive to September 16 and last until the end of the year, is unrelated to the vaccine’s mandate.

Three people familiar with negotiations between the Hochul administration and several unions said the administration’s incentive is for affected health workers to be given a half-day vacation if they are or are being vaccinated. This offer, however, is contingent upon union acceptance that their members would not have the contractual right to use accumulated time, such as sick days or vacation, to make up for hours lost during their suspension.

None of the unions had accepted the proposal on Wednesday evening.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, hospitals and other healthcare providers and long-term care facilities faced a staffing crisis – including group homes for people with disabilities, where some nurses are forced to work 24 hours a day. 24.

The state’s health ministry estimated this week that about 81 percent of hospital workers have been fully immunized. The mandate due to go into effect Monday requires workers to have at least one vaccine against COVID-19.

Last week, a federal judge in Utica issued an order temporarily banning employers from applying the state’s vaccination mandate to healthcare workers who requested a religious exemption.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge David N. Hurd came in a case filed against Hochul, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker and State Attorney General Letitia James on behalf of 17 medical professionals. It should be debated next week.

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