New Jersey police and fire unions protested against Newark Mayor Ras Baraka´s Covid-19 vaccine mandate for public employees. They rallied Wednesday in front of Newark City Hall and chanted “No vaccinations without negotiations.”
The Mayor issued an executive order last month requiring city employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Failure to do so would make them face disciplinary action up to and including being fired.
The order gave employees 30 days to submit proof of vaccination after August 16. However, it did not provide for the option of being tested for the virus instead of receiving the vaccine after that period.
According to nj.com, Newark Fire Officers Union President Anthony Tarantino said his members should be given the option to be tested for the virus or be vaccinated. “We want a choice,” said Tarantino.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge President James Stewart said Wednesday that requiring people to get the vaccine on their own time and money goes against their contract. Stewart argued first responders have been doing their jobs safely throughout the duration of the pandemic.
“We’ve been interacting with the public the last 18 months,” Stewart said. “We’ve come to work everyday. We’ve followed the guidelines. Members have been vaccinated. Members have been undergoing testing.”
On the side of life
“I know this cuts down the middle,” Baraka wrote in a letter last month to Newark Firefighters Union President Chuck West. “It has become completely politicized and less about science and more about whose side you are on. I will always be on the side of life and living. I have a responsibility to save as many lives as humanely possible, politics notwithstanding.”
At least nine police personnel in Newark have died from the coronavirus, the mayor said in his August letter. County data show 1,037 Newark residents have died from the virus and there were more than 39,000 cases in the city.