(FiveNation.com)- Last Thursday a judge ordered a temporary restraining order preventing the city of St. Paul, Minnesota from enforcing a vaccine mandate for some city employees.
Ramsey County District Court Judge Robert Awsumb issued the order “to preserve the status quo” until the litigation makes its way through the courts.
The St. Paul Police Federation and Firefighters Local 21 sued the city over the vaccine mandate issued by Mayor Melvin Carter in October. Carter had ordered that the nearly 4,000 city employees be fully vaccinated by the end of the year. In his order, Carter did not offer a testing alternative, meaning anyone who refused the vaccine would be terminated unless granted a religious or medical exemption.
The police and fire unions both sued the city arguing the order violated state labor laws and their collective bargaining agreements by failing to negotiate the terms of the vaccine mandate.
In his decision, Judge Awsumb noted that the issue is not whether the vaccines are beneficial or harmful. Instead, the court must consider if allowing the mandate to be implemented before the resolution of the lawsuits poses an “irreparable harm to an employee coerced into complying to maintain their livelihood.”
The judge suggested that the city and the unions either bring the dispute before a third-party arbitrator or enter into negotiations on the vaccine policy.
After the city argued that the vaccine mandate was an attempt to urgently address a public health issue, Judge Awsumb agreed to accelerate the procedure for a prompt resolution to the case. He scheduled a hearing for January 20 to address the status of negotiations.
Judge Awsumb also granted a separate request for a temporary restraining order from a group representing St. Paul parks and public works union employees. These employees, unlike the police and firefighters, have the right to strike if negotiations fall through.
Similar lawsuits were brought against the city of Chicago where unions sued over Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate that went into effect in October. The judge in that case ruled that unions had a right to arbitration, and last week an arbitrator ruled that several unions must comply with the mandate. A separate arbitration for the Chicago police union is scheduled to begin this week.