TUCSON — The City of Tucson is moving forward with its threat to fire city employees who do not get vaccinated for COVID-19, setting a December deadline.
Those same workers face November suspensions if they can’t prove they are vaccinated or that they received an accommodation for health or religious reasons.
According to their unions, 90% of Tucson’s police and firefighters are vaccinated for COVID-19. That compares to only 52% of Tucson’s residents. But 90% is not good enough for the Tucson City Council which voted 4-3 this week to enforce a vaccine mandate for city workers.
“It’s not just, ‘Gee, my liberties, I should have to get a vaccination?’ It’s, gee, your liberties are affecting the health of other people,” said Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik.
A total of 50 police officers, 53 firefighters and 10 communications operators are not vaccinated and did not receive an accommodation.
“When we’re talking public safety [COVID-19] is a threat. However, having non response to 911 emergencies, I think that threat is bigger,” said Jobe Dickinson, who is the executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Arizona.
CLEAA is the union which represent Tucson Police.
Dickinson says firing the police officers amounts to losing an entire patrol division. “Violent crime is up,” Dickinson says. “Eliminating police officers, eliminating firefighters to respond to medical issues is not what the community needs right now to keep them safe.”
On Wednesday, Governor Ducey's executive counsel, Anni Foster, sent a letter to Tucson City Attorney Mike G. Rankin warning the firings may be illegal and any action by the city should at least wait until the State Supreme Court decides if the mask mandate law is constitutional. The court hears the appeal on November 2.
In September, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled two provisions of the law were unconstitutional. But the judge let stand a provision requiring an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee on religious grounds.
“Why don’t we wait until the litigation is over to see if this is legal or not,” Dickinson said.
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero responded to the letter on Thursday, dismissing it as a politically motivated attempt by the governor to micromanage Tucson.