The union that represents Chicago firefighters and paramedics has voiced its opposition to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate.
“I’m 100 percent opposed to the mandate; it should be a personal decision,” Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 President Jim Tracy told the Sun-Times on Monday.
Last week Lightfoot announced that all city workers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 15.
“It’s the carrot and the stick, and it drives me crazy when you always use the stick,” said Tracy.
For Tracy and good amount of his membership, something like firefighting gear is a justified requirement, but requiring a vaccine in their opinion is different.
“I’m not going to go into a fire with a T-shirt and pants, but when you stick something in someone’s arm it’s a different story,” he said.
“It should be a personal choice, like a flu shot,” he said, noting that many members who’ve been vaccinated feel the same way.
Tracy said he encourages his approximately 4,600 members to get inoculated, and estimates about 60% have done so.
There are members who are in the anti-vaccination camp. Tracy didn’t know how many but said “they are screaming their heads off.”
Three members of the union have died from COVID-19.
Tracy said he sent a letter to Lightfoot expressing his displeasure but hasn’t formally heard back.
Lightfoot’s office didn’t return a request for comment.
Union members have been in ongoing discussions with members of Lightfoot’s team about the issue. Officials from the Chicago Federation of Labor, an umbrella organization that represents hundreds of unions — including Firefighters Union Local 2 — have also been at the table.
The CFL has an ownership stake in Sun-Times Media.
Tracy said he favors weekly testing instead of a vaccine mandate.
“We’re looking out for our members and all the citizens of Chicago,” he said.
The union representing Chicago police officers also opposes a vaccine mandate.