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*** UPDATED x1 *** AFSCME loses vax arbitration case; Pritzker and IHA urge hospitals to expand bed capacity

Thursday, Dec 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

[Comments are now open.]]

* As expected…

Building on efforts to protect state employees and people in the State’s care or custody from the threat of COVID-19, Governor JB Pritzker today announced that the Arbitrator in the State’s Vaccine Mandate Interest Arbitration determined that the State can and should require vaccinations for Illinois Department of Correction (IDOC) guards and Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) staff

This decision will ensure employees in State Correctional Centers and Juvenile Justice facilities are protected with the COVID-19 vaccines. Employees subject to this decision will be required to get their first shot by January 31, 2022 unless they are approved for a religious or medical exemption.

“The recent surge of cases brought on by the Omicron variant has brought a serious threat to our state, and I’m glad that this ruling will protect nearly 10,000 state workers and all of the people at these facilities,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Protecting the health and safety of workers and residents across the state remains a top priority for my administration and I look forward to continued discussions with our labor partners as we move forward with the task of keeping our employees and residents of our congregate facilities safe.””

Vaccination is the key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. All Illinois residents over the age of 5 are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at no cost and proof of immigration status is not required to receive the vaccine.

The administration has taken extensive measures to make the COVID-19 vaccine equitable and accessible. Governor JB Pritzker recently directed the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) to enhance its partnerships with local health department mass vaccination operations throughout the state to help meet the growing demand for the COVID-19 vaccine booster.

Individuals can visit http://www.vaccines.gov to find a nearby location to receive a vaccine or booster dose. Testing locations can be found at https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19/testing.html, including information on the days and hours for free Community-based Testing Sites.

* Meanwhile…

To prepare for a likely surge of post-holiday Omicron COVID-19 cases and to prepare for a potential shortage of staffed ICU beds, Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association are urging hospitals to take every possible measure to maintain and expand bed capacity, including postponing non-emergency surgeries and other procedures as needed and without risking patient harm.

The state and hospitals throughout Illinois are continuing to work in concert to prevent the state’s healthcare infrastructure from being overwhelmed by the ongoing Omicron variant surge of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. By working closely together over the course of this pandemic, this partnership has prevented Illinois from exceeding capacity, unlike other states.

Throughout Illinois, hospital admissions are rapidly increasing, further diminishing ICU bed capacity. Holiday gatherings are anticipated to drive an increase in the coming weeks, placing an additional strain on Illinois’ hospitals and healthcare workers.

In particular, hospitals should continue to follow the Illinois Department of Public Health’s guidance on when to consider postponing elective surgeries and procedures that physicians believe can be rescheduled without risking patient harm. Some hospitals have already delayed non-emergent procedures to increase capacity, and the Governor and hospital leaders urge all hospitals to take needed steps to ensure sufficient capacity in the coming weeks.

“We are preparing for a continuing post-holiday surge, and with hospital staff already working so hard, I appreciate the work hospital leadership is doing to assure capacity, including postponing non-emergency surgeries and procedures to ensure their ability to handle serious COVID cases and other emergencies without putting patients at risk,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “To all Illinoisans: please understand that the nation is experiencing high COVID transmission rates, and some surgeries in Illinois will be postponed. We’re asking our residents to temporarily hold off on important medical care like tonsillectomies, bariatric surgeries and hernia repair. As we work to keep ICU beds open, I continue to applaud the efforts of our hospitals and healthcare workers across the state, who have been heroes for us all.”

“We are currently seeing approximately 500 new admissions a day to Illinois hospitals due to COVID-19, and approximately 90% of those are unvaccinated,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “There is a health care worker shortage in Illinois, in the U.S., and across the world. We’re seeing health care workers leave the profession because they are burnt out after watching people suffer severe illness and even death for almost two years now. We want to make sure that there is a hospital bed available for anyone for any reason - cancer complications, appendicitis, stroke, heart attack, car crash, or COVID-19. Please get vaccinated and get boosted, for all of us.”

With the Governor’s encouragement, hospital leaders continue implementing other strategies to further free up availability in Illinois hospitals. This includes utilizing telehealth technology, reallocating staff resources, and expanding ICU capacity. In an effort to increase staffing to ensure care is available, the Governor has already extended state waivers to allow out-of-state healthcare professionals to work in Illinois. The State of Illinois has invited hospitals to participate in its staffing contract so that they can bring in additional available staff when needed to ensure capacity to treat COVID-19 patients. The Governor also supports hospitals and healthcare facilities that choose to implement new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance accelerating return-to-work timeframes. The Pritzker administration is also working with Illinois’ federal partners, seeking federal assistance to address healthcare staffing shortages.

However, healthcare experts emphasize that getting vaccinated, boosted and following recommended social distancing and masking guidelines remains critical.

“Hospitals continue to be on the front line of this fight, and are doing everything in their power to maintain access to healthcare for all patients. But we need your help. Wear a mask. Social distance. Avoid large gatherings. And please get vaccinated and boosted. Vaccination remains the best way to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death,” said Karen Teitelbaum, President and CEO of Sinai Chicago Health System and Chair of the IHA Board of Trustees.

“I want to thank Governor Pritzker for his continued partnership and collaboration with the hospital community during this pandemic. The overwhelming majority of the 5,000 COVID patients currently in our hospitals are unvaccinated. Hospitals cannot end this pandemic on their own. They need the continuing help and support of the public,” said AJ Wilhelmi, President and CEO of the IHA. “The best way to support your hospitals is to get vaccinated.”

Ted Rogalski, Administrator at Genesis Medical Center in Aledo and incoming 2022 Chair of IHA’s Board of Trustees, appealed to the public.

“Healthcare workers need your help,” Rogalski said. “This pandemic has taken a mental and physical toll on those who see the worst side of this virus every day. They are exhausted, but still standing tall. Please support your community healthcare workers and all frontline responders by taking all precautions to prevent sickness.”

*** UPDATE *** From Council 31’s website

On December 29 Arbitrator Edwin Benn ruled against AFSCME members in the interest arbitration regarding the State’s plan to require COVID vaccinations for employees in IDOC and IDJJ (see below). AFSCME had invoked the right of security employees to interest arbitration when the State broke off negotiations with the Union over the mandate and was prepared to unilaterally implement its terms.

In the arbitration, as at the bargaining table, AFSCME opposed the State’s rigid vaccine mandate, arguing that employees who do not wish to be vaccinated should have the option of testing weekly for COVID—a protocol in place for all school districts in the state. Benn did not agree and instead affirmed the State’s position that a crisis exists that requires the most robust possible response. He set January 31 as the date by which employees must receive a first vaccination shot.

Interest arbitration relies on a tripartite panel which in this instance includes the neutral arbitrator (Edwin Benn) who serves as chair; a union representative (Ed Caumiant, AFSCME Council 31 Regional Director) and an employer representative (Ed Jackson, DHS Labor Relations). The panel effectively functions as a sole arbitrator, since the employer and the union panel members invariably vote in opposition to each other, leaving the neutral arbitrator to be the deciding vote. The AFSCME representative on the panel has filed a formal dissent from the decision at the Labor Board (see below).

The arbitrator’s initial ruling only pertained to the core question of whether the mandate could proceed. He remanded all related issues—e.g. time off for COVID-related quarantines—to the parties to resolve by January 7. He retained jurisdiction to rule on any outstanding issues that cannot be resolved within that timeframe.

       

22 Comments
  1. - PublicServant - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 5:40 am:

    === The overwhelming majority of the 5,000 COVID patients currently in our hospitals are unvaccinated. ===

    Sadly, I can’t congratulate any of these 5,000 for exercising their personal freedoms, since they’re in isolation. I just hope their personal choice hasn’t sickened too many of their family, friends and others unfortunate enough to have come into contact with them during the contagious phase of their personal freedom.


  2. - PublicServant - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 5:42 am:

    As for AFSCME, congratulations on your delay tactics that allowed many of your members, well, to cease to be members.


  3. - NonAFSCMEStateEmployeeFromChatham - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 9:18 am:

    Take that, Roberta. Now bring on the executive order mandating all state employees get fully vaccinated by the end of February. And require everyone get their first booster by the end of September. Or get fired. Do it now, time and lives are at stake.


  4. - Honeybear - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 9:22 am:

    I’m so disappointed by AFSCME Leadership. Why? Really why? It just so upsets me that they chose this course of action.
    But I feel the solution is to get more involved not leave the union.


  5. - H-W - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 10:06 am:

    My son works in a Juvenile Justice facility as a corrections officer. Because detained juveniles cannot be made to vaccinate, the staff in his facility is constantly being exposed to detainees who have not been vaccinated, and who test positive after entering the system. As one result, my son was unable to visit during the Christmas holidays because he was in contact with a Covid positive detainee and isolating. Apparently, this is common enough. It is the second time he has had to isolate.

    Why would the Union and the guards resist vaccination? Personal rights to contract diseases in a prison / jail facility, then to interact and share those disease with others, does not appear in Constitution of Illinois or of the U.S.


  6. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 10:16 am:

    === On December 29 Arbitrator Edwin Benn ruled against AFSCME members in the interest arbitration regarding the State’s plan to require COVID vaccinations for employees in IDOC and IDJJ (see below). AFSCME had invoked the right of security employees to interest arbitration when the State broke off negotiations with the Union over the mandate and was prepared to unilaterally implement its terms.===

    AFSCME is not a serious labor organization, this ruling against them, as they fought *against* the health, safety, and welfare of membership… you don’t want the vaccine… quit… retire… move on…

    I never want to hear the absolute phony excuse that AFSCME cares about its membership.

    That is a farce. They are worth the mocking they deserve.

    A pathetic lot.


  7. - Ted - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 10:23 am:

    Why aren’t the inmates required to get vaccinated

    And isn’t your son vaccinated


  8. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 10:26 am:

    === Why aren’t the inmates required to get vaccinated===

    They ain’t bringing the virus into the prisons. Where they going?

    (Sigh)

    Get the vaccine, quit, retire, move on.


  9. - NonAFSCMEStateEmployeeFromChatham - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 10:34 am:

    Are they still griping about losing “COVID time” too? At my state office we’ve never that option since the pandemic begin. If you get COVID, you use your sick time or other accrued benefit time.


  10. - Ted - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 11:34 am:

    Well. Since vaccinated can still get and transmit Covid
    It would be beneficial if the inmates got vaccinated

    Wouldn’t it


  11. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 11:36 am:

    === Since vaccinated can still get and transmit Covid
    It would be beneficial if the inmates got vaccinated

    Wouldn’t it===

    Nah. AFSCME apparently doesn’t care about vaccinations, fighting them till the end.

    Your concerned trolling is adorable, however.


  12. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 11:44 am:

    ===It would be beneficial if the inmates got vaccinated ===

    Overwhelming majority of inmates are vaxed.


  13. - NonAFSCMEStateEmployeeFromChatham - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 11:56 am:

    ==I never want to hear the absolute phony excuse that AFSCME cares about its membership.

    That is a farce. They are worth the mocking they deserve.

    A pathetic lot.==

    And as such, maybe it’s time for the Governor to either cancel future AFSCME raises or even suspend the contract. Until AFSCME changes its stance on vaccination.


  14. - DHS Drone - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 12:07 pm:

    The union’s response is weak. They argue that making a mandate will make the state more likely to drop other measures. One, the state never said it would drop the other safety measures. Two, if they do then you grieve it under health and safety. The union’s argument is that “vax or test” is somehow safer than “must vax, plus test, plus mask, plus other measures.” Because they claim a “must vax” will turn into an “only vax.” It’s a strawman. Making all the staff vaccinate is going to be safer than allowing a vaccinate or test option. Of course, it won’t be 100% safe. But it will be safer. And to argue otherwise is to be disingenuous. Their other argument hinges on staffing issues. If you’re really worried about prison staffing then support criminal justice reform and start closing prisons. Staffing issue solved. But council doesn’t want to ever touch that one.


  15. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 12:19 pm:

    ===maybe it’s time for the Governor to either cancel future AFSCME raises or even suspend the contract===

    Yeah, that worked so well for Pat Quinn and Bruce Rauner.

    Right.


  16. - Unconventional wisdom - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 2:48 pm:

    What is wrong with AFSCME? Are the members that out of touch with reality that they forced the leadership to pursue this?
    Seems like the answer is YES.


  17. - Demoralized - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 3:02 pm:

    ==Are the members that out of touch with reality that they forced the leadership to pursue this?==

    Think of where the prisons are and you can answer this question for yourself.


  18. - NonAFSCMEStateEmployeeFromChatham - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 3:12 pm:

    ==Think of where the prisons are and you can answer this question for yourself.==

    All brought to you by Governor Thompson.


  19. - Honeybear - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 5:04 pm:

    So now that the IDOC insurrection has been put down I hope that AFSCME will put as much effort into helping those who willingly complied with the vaccination and regain Covid time. Omacron is raging through every community. I have so many vacinated friends who have gotten it. It sucks up sick time like crazy. It’s not like being irresponsible and not taking a flu shot. It’s a global pandemic. If we catch it even though we are vacinated, it would so help if it didn’t count against our sick time. I’m thinking especially of state workers who have children or care for a family member. They use sick time to attend appointments.


  20. - DHS Drone - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 7:28 pm:

    Council staffers knew the arbitration move was a guaranteed loser but they figured it was better to appease the correctional officers with “hey we tried” rather than risk RC6 decertifying. And in doing so delayed a vaccine mandate in the middle of a global pandemic. Mind boggling.


  21. - Notproud - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 9:17 pm:

    As an IDOC employee at a prison, the local unions are completely ridiculous. They run the facility, not management. They’ve been telling RC 6 they’ll get COVID time so don’t worry about the arbitration ruling. They encouraged getting your booster during the holiday so you “get 2 extra days off free”. Complete abuse of power. BUT…IDOC management allows it, so it will continue.


  22. - Seats - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 9:49 pm:

    I’m sure glad my union fought against a mandate that they were almost certain to lose in court on, rather than support it and fight for covid time. Our building has had a number of fully vaxxed employees use a week of sick time now that they likely wouldnt gave needed to do if the unions number 1 concern wasnt to protect prison officer opt outs…


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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