Connecticut’s public sector unions say any potential state mandates for coronavirus vaccinations must be negotiated at the bargaining table.
The Connecticut Examiner reported Saturday the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 4, which represents 30,000 Connecticut residents, said in a statement:
It is our position that employers must bargain the impact of any issues related to vaccinations and testing for COVID-19 in workplaces, including mandatory vaccinations. The best way to achieve a common end – safe workers and safe communities – is when workers have a voice and seat at the table in decisions impacting their working conditions.
Similarly, Jan Hochadel, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in Connecticut, released a statement calling for employers of her union’s members to create policies regarding vaccinations “in mutual negotiations between labor and management.”
“We expect our local union members’ employers to live up to their obligations under current contracts and meet us at the bargaining table before implementing any new mandates,” Hochadel said.
The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), which represents 45,000 state employees, also said in a statement:
At this time, SEBAC has not been approached by the [Ned] Lamont Administration on this matter, but we look forward to carefully considering any proposal that is designed to enhance the safety of both state workers and the public they serve while ensuring a fair and effective system.
The unions reacted to a call from state Senate Majority Leader Robert Duff (D) for mandatory vaccinations or weekly testing, in imitation of the Biden administration’s announcement Monday that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will be mandating vaccinations for the Chinese coronavirus for all its healthcare workers.
VA healthcare workers who refuse a vaccine risk losing their jobs.
Additionally, the Biden Pentagon announced Thursday it will mandate military service members to disclose if they have been vaccinated; otherwise, they must submit to mandatory testing and travel restrictions.
Biden also issued regulations Thursday that will require federal workers and contractors to sign forms attesting they have received a vaccination or comply with additional rules regarding the wearing of masks, social distancing, and submitting to weekly testing.
The American Postal Workers Unions (APWU), however, which represents over 200,000 U.S. Postal Service employees and retirees, as well as 2,000 private-sector mail workers, said Wednesday it is not the role of the federal government to mandate vaccinations.
“Issues related to vaccinations and testing for COVID-19 in the workplace must be negotiated with the APWU,” the union said in a statement. “At this time the APWU opposes the mandating of COVID-19 vaccinations in relation to U.S. postal workers.”
Duff is calling for Gov. Ned Lamont (D) to mandate measures in Connecticut that are similar to those enacted by Biden. Additionally, he said all medical offices in the state should inform their patients of the vaccination status of all staff members.
“Such a move would allow patients access to important information, allowing them more freedom to make choices aligning with their beliefs,” the press statement said.
“With federal and military employees subject to these restrictions announced by the President and Defense Department, it would make sense to apply a similar framework to Connecticut’s state and local employees,” Duff said, adding, “This would not be a mandate. It’s a commonsense way to restrict the spread of COVID-19.”
The push for mandatory vaccines and a return to masking comes as the Biden administration’s pandemic strategy has been criticized for its confusion in its guidance requiring vaccinated Americans to wear masks at the same time it touts the effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines.
Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Thursday school districts returning to mask mandates are doing so “to protect the vaccinated” and to prevent the unvaccinated or vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections from transmitting the virus to others.
Murthy said the latest CDC guidance urging Americans to wear masks indoors in public places where there is substantial transmission is “intended to reduce transmission, recognizing that some breakthrough cases can actually end up transmitting infection.”
The Examiner reported Lamont has not yet decided whether he will take the Biden administration’s approach to the state level.
On Sunday evening, the Hartford Courant announced the state is urging all Connecticut residents to wear masks in public indoor spaces.