The Chicago mayor, Lori Lightfoot, has filed a complaint in court against Chicago’s largest police union and its president after the union issued a directive for officers to ignore a citywide mandate to report their vaccination status, the latest in a battle between government officials and first responders over vaccine mandates.
In a statement issued on Friday morning, Lightfoot announced that she had instructed the city’s law department to file a complaint for injunctive relief against the Chicago chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police union and its president, John Catanzara, for actions the mayor regarded as encouraging an illegal strike.
“As Chicago’s mayor, I cannot and will not stand idly by while the rhetoric of conspiracy theorists threatens the health and safety of Chicago’s residents and first responders,” said Lightfoot in the statement.
“President Catanzara has time and again deliberately misled our police officers by lying about the requirements of the policy and falsely claiming that there will be no repercussions if officers are insubordinate and refuse to follow a city and department directive or order.”
In response, the police union has filed a counter-suit against the city, arguing that the mayor did not properly negotiate the terms of the mandate with the union.
On Tuesday, Catanzara posted an online video, criticizing the vaccine mandate announced in August by the Lightfoot administration, which required city workers to get fully vaccinated and report their vaccination status by Friday.
He urged officers this week to “hold the line” and resist vaccine requirements.
The mandate, which covers more than 30,000 city workers, requires that employees who remain unvaccinated and refuse semiweekly coronavirus testing be placed on unpaid leave – unless granted religious or medical exemptions.
In the clip posted to YouTube, Catanzara said he would sue the Lightfoot administration if it tried to enforce the mandate and suggested that many Chicago police department (CPD) officers would be unwilling to comply.
Catanzara then instructed CPD employees to petition for vaccine exemptions but not to enter the required information into the city’s vaccination online portal.
While Catanzara maintains that his comments had nothing to do with his own vaccination status, he argued that he is against the mayor forcing employees to get the vaccine.
“I do not believe the city has the authority to mandate that to anybody, let alone that information about your medical history,” said Catanzara.
Lightfoot responded to Catanzara’s comments in a press conference on Wednesday, characterizing his comments as “untrue or patently false”.
In a new video on Thursday, Catanzara doubled down on his comments, telling union members, about 8,000 in total, that the city would not be enforcing unpaid leave for those who remained unvaccinated without an exemption – even though Lightfoot insisted the expectation is that city officers will comply.
Responding to fears of a Chicago police officer shortage, Illinois’s governor, JB Pritzker, has offered to send Illinois national guard members, though the city has yet to say whether alternative officers will be used. Lightfoot has said she does not expect there will be a shortage of officers.