A judge has told the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, to temporarily halt enforcement of COVID-19 vaccine requirement for police and fire union members.
Star Tribune reports:
Ramsey County District Court Judge Robert Awsumb issued a temporary restraining order “to preserve the status quo” until questions related to state labor laws raised in lawsuits filed by the St. Paul Police Federation and Firefighters Local 21 can be decided, he wrote.
In late October, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter announced that the city’s nearly 4,000 employees would be required to get vaccinated by the end of the year. The city is not offering a testing alternative, meaning workers refusing to get the shots face termination unless they are granted a religious or medical exemption.
In late November and early December, the St. Paul police and fire unions filed complaints in court arguing the city violated state labor laws and their collective bargaining agreements by failing to negotiate the terms of the vaccine policy.
“The issue before the Court is not whether vaccines are harmful or beneficial,” wrote Awsumb. “The Court must consider whether allowing the implementation of the vaccine mandate before resolution of the important legal issue involved could result in irreparable harm to an employee coerced into complying to maintain their livelihood.”
Chris Wachtler, a lawyer for the fire union, lauded the judge’s decision, saying a testing option is a top priority for the group.
“The issues aren’t complicated here,” Wachtler said. “What we’ve wanted from the beginning is a testing option. If the city is willing to give us that or discuss it, there’s fertile ground for resolution.”
When it comes to exemption requests, St. Paul Police Federation President Mark Ross expressed concern that some members remain in the dark.
“The extended timelines are a great benefit to the folks who are kind-of in limbo,” Ross stated. “I think the best possible scenario is we come together and we sit down and we negotiate a solution that works for everybody and does what it’s supposed to do — which is to keep people safe and prevent the spread of COVID.”
Mayor Carter has yet to weigh in on the ruling.