Chicago police officers received a temporary victory Monday when a Cook County judge ruled officers did not have to comply with Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers.

However, the city also received a victory because the judge said officers would still be required to submit their vaccination status to an online portal for city workers.

What are the details?

Cook County Judge Raymond Mitchell temporarily blocked Lightfoot’s deadline that all Chicago police officers be vaccinated by Dec. 31.

Mitchell issued the stay to allow the Fraternal Order of Police and city attorneys to arbitrate grievances.

“The City’s counsel suggested at oral argument that it might be possible to arbitrate the grievances before December 31, 2021, but that is a matter for the parties to resolve among themselves,” Mitchell wrote in his order. “So, the only remedy left to protect the unions’ right to meaningful arbitration is to stay in compliance with the December 31 vaccination requirement until such time as the arbitration is complete.”

Mitchell explained that Chicago’s “public health objective and the police union’s desire to pursue their grievances are not wholly irreconcilable.”

In fact, Mitchell seemed to agree with the union’s stance, which has been to balk at city mandates and pursue legal remedies. “‘Obey now, grieve later’ is not possible. If every union member complied and was vaccinated by December 31,” Mitchell explained, “they would have no grievance to pursue and there would be no remedy an arbitrator could award. An award of back pay or reinstatement cannot undo a vaccine. Nothing can.”

However, officers who do not comply with the city’s requirement to report their vaccination status or submit to routine testing can still be placed on unpaid leave, Mitchell said. He called the requirement “a minimal intrusion” because “police officers already are obligated to provide medical information to their employer.”

Importantly, Mitchell’s ruling only applies to the Chicago police union, and not other city employees.

What was the reaction?

Both Lightfoot and the police union declared victory.

“If you look at what’s happening in court cases all across the country, whether it’s fire and police or others that are challenging these mandates, I’m not aware of a single instance in which a mandate put in place has been invalidated,” Lightfoot said, WLS-TV reported.

The mayor also bashed FOP president John Catanzara.

“I think some people were waiting and they were told by FOP in particular, ‘we’ll win in court,'” Lightfoot said. “Well, as I said, I think John Catanzara, is what, 0 for 8? So at some point people have to recognize this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s leading them down the wrong path.”

Catanzara, however, struck a more peaceful note.

“Thankfully, Judge Mitchell heard our argument that we’ve been saying all along,” he said. “This fight was about collective bargaining rights and the obligation for the city to go to the bargaining table and to arbitration.”

Anything else?

According to WLS, 35 Chicago police officers have been placed on unpaid leave for not complying with the vaccination status reporting requirement.

If the labor union and Chicago city attorneys cannot reach an agreement by Dec. 31, the vaccination requirement will continue to remain inapplicable to Chicago police officers until an agreement is reached.

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