N.J. city to require city employees to get COVID-19 vaccine or face discipline
Newark Firefighters Union President Chuck West said employees should be given the option of being tested continuously for COVID-19 or getting the vaccine
NEWARK, N.J. — Newark will require city employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face discipline up to termination, according to an executive order obtained by NJ Advance Media.
The executive order, signed Tuesday by Mayor Ras Baraka, goes into effect Aug 16. City employee that are not yet fully vaccinated by that date will have 30 days to provide proof of their inoculation and must provide their department head with a copy of a negative coronavirus test result each week.
Some local unions that represent city employees expressed concerns about how the executive order fits in with members’ contracts. Newark Firefighters Union President Chuck West said employees should be given the option of being tested continuously for COVID-19 or getting the vaccine.
“We stand behind a vaccine and/or a choice of being tested,” West told NJ Advance Media on Thursday. “When you put in the fact that you’ll be disciplined for not having it, that’s where we have some problems.”
In the order, Baraka cited the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus and rising number of unvaccinated people hospitalized with the contagious illness. The mayor said in a statement the requirement is designed to, “combat a dreadful pandemic that we have been fighting against for more than a year.”
“Requiring our municipal workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is about protecting the health and well-being of our municipal team, their families, as well as the residents and visitors they come into contact with,” said Baraka. “As positive cases of coronavirus are rising again, due to the highly contagious Delta variant, we need to take whatever steps necessary to safeguard and ensure everyone’s safety.”
Like other vaccine mandates, Newark will allow for religious and medical exemptions if an employee makes a certification. Otherwise, a city employee could face discipline - including termination - for not complying with the order.
“Any city employee that refuses to adhere to this Executive Order shall be disciplined, up to and including termination,” the order said.
Newark employees will be required to provide their department heads with CDC vaccination cards and copies will be placed in the staffer’s personnel file, according to a copy of the order.
Those who are within the 30-day window of the executive order’s deadline must provide a negative COVID-19 test every Tuesday until they are vaccinated. Only polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests will be accepted, not rapid tests, which can be less accurate.
Employees will have to pay for their tests and attend appointments on their own time, the order stated. Those who do not provide a test result will be sent home, not be paid and face possible discipline.
Several colleges and universities in New Jersey have also required vaccines along with other employers. However, mandates among municipal governments appear less common. In Jersey City, second to Newark in population, officials have said they won’t require vaccines without a statewide directive.
“We believe, and have seen, that creating positive peer pressure alone has been a motivator for some staff to get vaccinated,” a Jersey City spokeswoman told The Jersey Journal last week.
Hoboken is believed to be the first city in New Jersey to require its employees to be vaccinated. Late last month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a similar order requiring shots for workers there.
While stopping short of a widespread order, Gov. Phil Murphy announced last week that New Jersey will require all workers in hospitals, long-term care centers, prisons, and a number of other state and private healthcare facilities and high-risk congregate settings to be fully vaccinated.