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Largest health care union in the U.S. says it will will oppose mandatory COVID vaccines for workers

The nation’s largest health care union says it plans to oppose hospital COVID-19 vaccine mandates, setting up a showdown between workers and their employers around the country. 

Earlier this month, NewYork-Presbyterian became the first hospital in the state, and one of the first in the country to require all employees to get vaccinated in order to keep their jobs.

The majority of staff, 70 percent have been vaccinated, officials say, and workers have until August  1 to apply for a medical or religious exemption.  

But 1199SEIU, a union with more than 450,000 members between Florida, Maryland Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, DC, represents workers at the hospital, and plans to fight the mandate on behalf of their members.

While the union encourages its members to get vaccinated, officials say they oppose vaccine requirements.

In December, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that employers were allowed to mandate that staff receive immunizations.  

1199SEIU, the nation’s largest healthcare workers union that represents employees at NewYork-Presbyterian, plans to oppose the vaccine mandate

‘We are not in agreement with a mandate of the COVID-19 vaccine,’ George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU, said in a statement earlier this month. 

‘A hard-handed approach will not work and will only create greater frustration for the healthcare heroes who have been battling this pandemic every day for the last 15 months.

‘We agree that vaccination is an important tool to help us move forward, but mandating vaccination is not, nor will it ever, be the answer.’ 

Gresham, who has received a vaccine himself, said his union plans to fight against the mandate.

‘Whether there is a legal challenge that we can make, or whether it’s just a pure organizational challenge that we can make, we are not going to just give in,’ he told Gothamist.

1199SEIU did not respond to’s request for comment. 

The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) has also voiced opposition to the vaccine mandates.

On its website, NYSNA writes that it supports the vaccine, but believes its nurses have a right to have some reservations.

‘The public has legitimate concerns regarding the safety, efficacy, and effectiveness of any vaccine that has been developed and processed under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), and one that particularly has been developed at ‘warp speed” says a statement.

All available COVID-19 vaccines have received emergency use authorization, but not full authorization, from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

NewYork-Presbyterian hospital in New York City is requiring all of its employees to get at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot by September 1 in order to keep their jobs

 The FDA issued the temporary form of authorization that will only last as long as the nation is in a state of emergency related to the virus – which is slated to end in March 2022.

While the vaccines are all believed to be totally safe, the vaccines will not be able to receive full authorization until they have a few years worth of clinical data.

NewYork-Presbyterian is giving all employees up to September 1 to get get at least the first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine in order to keep their jobs.  

‘The stakes in this matter are high, and the evidence is clear that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the most important and responsible action we can take as NYP team members for the safety and well-being of our patients and visitors, our communities, and ourselves,’ hospital leadership wrote in a memo to staff obtained by Gothamist.  

The hospital already requires all staff to be vaccinated for the flu, measles, rubella and varicella. 

Houston Methodist became the first hospital to institute an employee vaccine mandate earlier this year. More than 150 employees were terminated earlier this week for failing to get vaccinated

NewYork-Presbyterian is not the first hospital to issue a vaccine mandate. 

Houston Methodist Hospital became the nation’s first major hospital system to issue a vaccine mandate when they gave all employees up to June 6 to get fully vaccinated. 

Just before the deadline, 117 employees joined a lawsuit, suing the hospital to remove the mandate.

The lawsuit was thrown out, and 153 employees were either terminated or resigned earlier this week. 

Dozens of other hospitals have followed suit, including in states like Maryland, Florida and Washington D.C., where 1199SEIU also represents many healthcare employees, setting the stage for battles over the mandates across the country.

Daily Mail Online

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