DC mayor warns gov’t workers ‘face adverse employment action’ if they don’t get the jab, or test weekly

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Tuesday that all government employees and teachers must receive COVID vaccinations by Sept. 19 or get tested weekly to avoid “adverse employment actions” due to the spread of the Delta variant.

“We know that we have been very steadfast and successful in crushing the virus in the District, and know we will do that with the Delta variant,” Bowser proclaimed as she lowered the boom on unvaccinated workers even as murders outpace COVID deaths in D.C.

Those unvaccinated employees who qualify for religious or medical exemptions will also have to undergo weekly COVID testing. New employees will be required to be vaccinated before employment can commence. The mandate includes contractors, interns, and grantees, as well as all D.C. Public Schools teachers and staff.

Bowser stopped just shy of issuing a full mandate for roughly 37,000 government workers. Officials contended that educating employees about the vaccine and allowing for a testing option would increase vaccine rates. If it doesn’t, City Administrator Kevin Donahue said the city would consider their options to enforce vaccinations.

“I think we can boost the numbers much higher on the track that we are on now,” Donahue declared.

Only 59 percent of the city’s workforce have submitted their vaccine status according to D.C. data as reported by the Washington Post. Of those, 54 percent are said to be fully vaccinated.

“The goal is to get everyone vaccinated,” Donahue said. “There is an opportunity working with our employees in the unions to get our vaccine numbers much higher than they are now. I believe, without getting to the point where we have to impose a mandate as a condition of employment for everyone.”

The news of mandated vaccinations for government workers was expected as a decision was said to be imminent. Officials are said to be working with local labor leaders and unions to determine how the mandate will be enacted and enforced.

As Bowser made the announcement, she was flanked by the city’s most powerful labor leaders, signaling that they support and back her decision.

(Video Credit: WUSA9)

Over the weekend, Randi Weingarten, who is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, which is the second-largest teachers’ union in the country, endorsed a vaccine mandate for educators. Following that announcement, the Washington Teachers’ Union, a local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, also signaled its support for a vaccine requirement.

Jacqueline Pogue Lyons, who is the president of the local union, which represents about 5,000 educators in D.C. Public Schools, stated that she wants a vaccine requirement for teachers. She also wants educators who receive a formal exemption from the vaccine for medical or religious reasons to be tested for the coronavirus weekly.

“We’re ready to go back to school in person and we fully support everyone being vaccinated,” Lyons stated on Monday.

Bowser’s mandate follows announcements made last week by the governors of Maryland and Virginia who are now requiring some state employees to get vaccinated or take weekly coronavirus tests by Sept. 1. Last week, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) also announced that employees in his office would be required to get vaccinated by Sept. 13 or get tested weekly as well.

The mayor’s requirements follow those of President Biden who imposed new vaccination rules on federal workers last month, requiring that they sign forms attesting to being vaccinated against COVID or agree to face weekly testing, mandated masking, and social distancing at work. The military followed suit and announced that all troops should get the jab by Sept. 15.

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