Thousands of New York City municipal workers will lose their jobs by the end of the day Friday if they are not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, about two weeks after they were warned by the Adams administration to adhere to a policy implemented in October.
Yet while approximately 3,000 city workers — less than 1% of the city’s total workforce — are slated for termination for defying the vaccination policy, more employees could still lose their jobs.
As it stands, the city has received 13,044 religious and medical accommodation requests for a vaccine exemption, of which 54% have been processed, with 2,118 approved and 4,912 denied, according to figures provided by City Hall. The rest are still being processed, raising the possibility that more city workers could be let go if their request is denied and they continue to decline the shot.
The 3,000 workers who stand to lose their jobs on Friday were identified as those who declined to apply for a medical or religious exemption or were denied one.
“It’s not about termination, it’s about vaccination,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a news conference in the Brooklyn on Friday. “We want people to be vaccinated. I don’t want to see the city close down again.”
Adams added that he would not adhere to a double standard — allowing some city workers to be vaccinated, while letting others continue to work without a reasonable accommodation request.
The policy took effect in October as then-Mayor Bill de Blasio argued the key to defeating the virus was through vaccination. This affected some 26,000 employees who did not receive at least one vaccine dose by the October 29th deadline, leading to fears city services would suffer. The disruptions appeared to have led to some slow services, including sanitation pick-up, though much of that was reportedly a result of workers protesting the mandate. Ultimately more and more workers continued to return to work.
Adams allowed the policy to carry over and a memo from the Department of Citywide Services was sent to these workers on Jan. 31st, warning that if they are not fully vaccinated, their last day would be Feb. 11th.
A spokesperson for Adams said the administration is confident there will be no disruptions in service.
Ahead of the deadline, more than two-dozen unions filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday challenging the terminations, arguing it violates their members’ right to due process. Some of the unions include those representing teachers, police officers, sanitation workers and firefighters.
The head of the firefighters union, Andrew Ansbro, struck a balance as the deadline neared, urging members who haven’t been vaccinated to get one, but respecting their decision to decline it.
“To those of my members facing termination, I have to say that I am proud of you for holding the line, but I still encourage you to get the vaccination before it’s too late,” said Ansbro, speaking at a news conference inside the union’s Manhattan headquarters. “In the end I’m hoping the decision you make in the long run is the right decision for you and you family.”
Twelve members were set to be fired on Friday, 11 received medical exemptions, and about 80 were placed on leave for not filing their exemption requests on time.
This story has been updated with additional information.