The largest police union in New York City is suing Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio over his COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees.
The Police Benevolent Association on Monday filed a lawsuit in Staten Island Supreme Court arguing that the mayor’s mandate issued last week is unlawful.
The mayor is requiring all city workers, except uniformed corrections officers, to receive at least one vaccine dose by 5 p.m. on Oct. 29, or risk being placed on unpaid leave.
“The vaccine mandate is shocking to the conscience because it affects not only the right to bodily integrity, but police officers’ right to pursue their employment,” the 37-page lawsuit states.
PBA claims the city is violating police officers’ rights under the New York State Constitution because it has failed to show a compelling reason for the mandate and that it was achieved by the least restrictive means.
The union says the New York Police Department’s “vax or test” program, in which unvaccinated officers must undergo weekly tests, is sufficient to protect officers from spreading the virus.
The program, it said, has been “effective in protecting the community and the operations of the NYPD, while respecting the privacy and autonomy of individual officers’ personal medical decisions.”
Mr. de Blasio went on MSNBC to announce the mandate last Wednesday and said the vaccinate-or-test option “hasn’t gotten us where we need to go.”
“So, we say vaccinate, if you choose not to, you have the right to go on unpaid leave,” he said. “We’re going to work with your union to figure out what happens next. But the bottom line is we’re not going to pay people unless they’re vaccinated.”
The city’s most recent statistics as of Tuesday show nearly 70% of NYPD’s 55,000 employees have reported their vaccination status. Of those, at least 82% are vaccinated.
PBA wants the court to declare the mandate is illegal and void. Union President Matt Lynch said in a statement Monday that the union is also planning to file a request for a temporary restraining order against the mandate while litigation continues.
Within hours of the lawsuit being filed Monday morning, hundreds of workers from city departments — including police, fire, sanitation and emergency services — blocked roads in the city’s Brooklyn borough in protest of the mandate, Newsweek reported.
The Washington Times on Monday sent a request for comment to Mr. de Blasio.
The union, which includes more than 50,000 active and retired NYPD officers, is represented by in-house counsel Michael T. Murray and attorneys from the NYC-based law firm Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe LLP.