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Pritzker delays vaccine deadline for some state workers

October 16, 2021 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker has pushed back a deadline for state employees of veterans’ homes, prisons and other congregate facilities to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as his office negotiates with labor unions representing some workers.

Pritzker, who in August set an Oct. 4 deadline for state workers covered by his requirement to get the vaccine, on Friday said employees have until Nov. 30 to be fully vaccinated, the Chicago Tribune reported. The workers are employed by the departments of Corrections, Veterans Affairs, Human Services and Juvenile Justice.

Pritzker’s administration has reached agreements with several unions representing state workers. But negotiations continue with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 and Teamsters Local 700. AFSCME, which represents some 15,000 state workers affected by the requirement, objected to what it called “rigid mandates.”

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“This administration continues to work to protect vulnerable residents in our care or custody by ensuring state employees in congregate settings receive the vaccine,” Pritzker spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement. She said the delay will allow unions to communicate with members and give workers time to get their vaccines, adding “We are working diligently to reach agreement with the remaining two unions.”

Under the agreements reached so far, workers who don’t comply with the mandate will face “progressive disciplinary measures” that could result in termination. The agreements provide an alternative COVID-19 testing option only for people with an approved religious or medical objection.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who also has imposed a vaccine mandate for city workers, went to court to stop the head of the police union from encouraging members to disobey the requirement to report vaccination status.