SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the city’s firefighters union president publicly disagreed over mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for emergency medical personnel on Thursday.
This follows an Aug. 5 order requiring state healthcare workers to become vaccinated by the end of September. Firefighters and emergency responders are currently not required to become vaccinated under the order.
Union members — which includes Sacramento firefighters — should have the right to choose between a COVID-19 vaccine or “another option,” said Sacramento Area Fire Fighters Local 522 President Chris Andrew in press release on Wednesday.
“There is not an acceptable reason why any employer should mandate that their employees can only get vaccinated or lose their job,” Andrew said. “Employers must provide options and all employees must have the right to choose.”
Andrew said any employer that threatens employees with “get vaccinated or get fired” policies should be “shunned,” saying members are capable of educating themselves on making the best decision for themselves and their families.
Steinberg disagreed, saying emergency medical responders are public safety leaders — and that public safety should take precedent, in a written response on Thursday. Steinberg has not yet required city employees to be vaccinated, though he says the city is moving toward a mandate.
“It is highly irresponsible to insist that somehow this is a matter of personal freedom and choice,” Steinberg said. He said vulnerable residents should be able to trust that arriving firefighters and paramedics won’t infect them.
Approximately 55% of Sacramento firefighters and paramedics are vaccinated, according to Steinberg.
“That means the other 45% are interacting with the public and potentially spreading a deadly disease,” Steinberg said. “Our city must be part of the public health solution, not the problem.”
Andrew said the union will resist any attempt to mandate vaccinations among its members.
A case like this could end up in the nation’s highest court, said Jonathan Stein, an Elk Grove attorney.
“Ultimately this will probably end up in front of a judge,” Stein said.
The city and the firefighters union will try and mediate through their collective bargaining agreement, Stein said, but as disputes like this play out across the country, he expects lawsuits aimed at the Supreme Court to develop.
Read the mayor’s full letter below: