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*** UPDATED x1 *** Pritzker’s office reiterates opposition to unlimited paid leave for willfully unvaxxed public employees

Tuesday, Jan 18, 2022

* I’ve been over this with subscribers and briefly here on the blog. Tribune last week

Despite the urging of Illinois educators and strong bipartisan support from lawmakers, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he plans to veto a bill that would grant school employees administrative leave for COVID-19-related sick days for themselves and their children.

In a Tuesday letter to the leaders of the state’s two largest teachers unions, the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Pritzker said, “I have been very clear in stating that I will veto HB2778.”

“While that continues to be my plan, I have also said that I agree with and support the purpose of the bill: keeping teachers and students safe and in school during this unprecedented global pandemic,” Pritzker said.

The School Employee Benefit and Wage Protection bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support from lawmakers in October, was championed by the state’s teachers unions, who said school employees with young families were being forced to use all of their sick days if they or their children contracted the virus or were required to quarantine.

* From our old friend Emily Miller at the governor’s office…

Hi Rich,

Some recent newspaper articles left several people I know scratching their heads wondering why the Governor would veto HB2778, a bill giving teachers paid leave to deal with Covid-19-related absences. I thought it might be useful to straighten this out by just explaining the Governor’s actual position.

To be clear: the Governor supports giving paid administrative time off to teachers who need it for Covid-19-related reasons and he hopes to sign a bill that achieves that goal. The Governor also supports doing everything we can to keep kids and teachers safe and in the classroom. The language in the bill achieves the first goal, but not the second. The Governor’s team is in the middle of negotiations with the IEA and the IFT to agree on language that achieves both goals.

As written, the bill provides unlimited paid time off to teachers who have chosen not to get vaccinated. It is unsustainable and bad public policy to give people who make the choice not to get vaccinated unlimited paid time off while they continue to willfully expose themselves to a virus that kills people and packs our state’s hospitals, limiting access to healthcare across the state. The science is very clear and there is not room for debate: vaccines are a vital tool in preventing the deadly effects of Covid-19, and those who take the steps to be fully vaccinated against this virus are doing their part to keep everyone safe.

It should be noted that some people don’t get to choose not to take the vaccine—they are medically prevented from taking it. And those people need protection. That’s why federal law prevents discrimination against those who have medical exemptions, and federal law extends to the state of Illinois. The Governor supports paid administrative leave for Covid-19 related absences for those teachers as well.

While there were technical changes the Governor’s team proposed to clarify the bill and make it easier to implement, the only real sticking point is whether, as a matter of public policy, we can grant unlimited paid time off to people who choose not to get vaccinated during an ongoing global pandemic. The Governor does not believe that is a sustainable position.

Most teachers are fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated teachers are protecting themselves and their communities and are doing everything they can to teach students in person during this stressful, unprecedented time of uncertainty. Our hope is that the bill’s proponents will compromise on this point so the Governor can sign a bill that gives paid Covid-19 time to the vast majority of teachers and prioritizes keeping teachers and children safe and in school.

This administration has worked closely with school districts and teachers throughout this pandemic to keep everyone safe, and we remain committed to that collaborative approach. If we are able to reach agreement, we’ll work with proponents and legislators to get a new bill moving and signed as soon as possible.

I hope that helps clear things up.

Stay healthy,

Emily

I happen to strongly agree that it would be bad policy to give unlimited paid leave to willfully unvaccinated public employees.

The flipside is that I realized over the past few days that I personally know some vaccinated and boosted school district workers who are quickly burning through their paid sick leave as omicron infects one after another of their children, requiring them to be home. And nobody knows when the General Assembly will return.

But, on the other hand, there is a retroactive paid leave clause in the current bill. However, can they pass it?

I blame the sponsors for not working this out in advance. But that’s cold comfort to the people who may be about to have no banked paid sick leave.

And they can’t do an amendatory veto because there are other technical problems which, I’m told, can’t be fixed that way.

So, bottom line for me right now is they need an agreement pronto and the GA needs to get itself back to town to pass it. Toot suite.

Your thoughts on this?

*** UPDATE *** Press release…

The Illinois Council of Community College Presidents appreciates Governor Pritzker’s request for a collaborative and inclusive approach to addressing the concerns that have been raised regarding HB2778. This collaborative spirit is a long-standing tradition of collective bargaining at the local level, between an individual community college district’s elected board and their local bargaining units. This has allowed agreements regarding wages, benefits and working conditions to be addressed within the context of the specific institution and the region it serves. Unfortunately, HB2778 was introduced as a statewide approach to legislating COVID-19 working conditions without input from Illinois community colleges.

This muted the experienced voices of institutions serving more than 600,000 Illinois residents each year through credit and non-credit courses. We hope that community colleges can engage in collaborative discussions surrounding the state’s approach to proposed legislation impacting community college employees.

The Illinois Council of Community College Presidents stands ready to work together with Governor Pritzker, legislators and statewide union leaders to continue encouraging vaccination and ensure those taking appropriate steps to vaccinate and protect themselves, and our students, against COVID-19 are afforded reasonable accommodations to address COVID related incidents.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

27 Comments
  1. - Todd - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 3:15 pm:

    I understand the position against those who choose not to get vaxed. Ut whqt about the person who got the vax and as things keep changing with boosters they decide they did their part and no more jabs?


  2. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 3:19 pm:

    ==decide they did their part and no more jabs==

    If boosters are recommended then they really didn’t do their part if they don’t get them did they?


  3. - Suburban Mom - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 3:21 pm:

    I would be FURIOUS to find out that my local schools were paying for unlimited paid leave for teachers who refused to be vaccinated. (I would be even more furious to find out there was a vax-refusing teacher in my kid’s classroom, that is not okay.)

    I understand something needs to get passed, and maybe we start with the current bill and then fix it. But the blowback for a willfully unvaccinated teacher getting unlimited paid leave for catching Covid will be unbelievable — and rightfully so, IMO.

    I have never gone the “I’m a taxpayer, I pay your salary” route with a public employee in my entire life, but I would be sorely tempted in that sort of situation. Most of our teachers have worked their butts off throughout this pandemic, gotten vaccinated as soon as possible, and worked really hard to keep our children safe. I would be very angry to learn that instead of putting more money towards them, and towards students, when schools’ financial needs are so high right now, we were paying unlimited leave to someone who couldn’t be bothered to get vaccinated. (And it’s not that I would want them back in the classroom spreading the plague; I would want them fired for refusing in the first place.)


  4. - Suburban Mom - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 3:22 pm:

    ===whqt about the person who got the vax and as things keep changing with boosters they decide they did their part and no more jabs?===

    It will be awkward when they die of tetanus after a playground accident, I guess?


  5. - Chicago Blue - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 3:22 pm:

    My wife is diabetic, fully vaccinated and boosted and still got COVID on January 5th at her Southside classroom that already only half full. She’s had to use all of her sick days to quarantine so it’s a bummer that this couldn’t get figured out.


  6. - JS Mill - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 3:25 pm:

    I wonder why the governor’s office isn’t working with the IASB and IASA? Shouldn’t they be working with all stakeholder groups?

    There should be a limit, we cannot sustain unlimited days off. Even for vaxxed people. We do not have the people or the money. We will have to close schools if this goes into effect.

    And yes, most teachers are vaxxed but that also depends on geography as to what most means. Some places may be over 90% but in some places most means 51%. It should be 100% of those that are able, but that isn’t reality. All the more reason not to give the unvaxxed unlimited time off.

    And the governor’s office should take the IASB and IASA position into consideration as they represent a major stakeholder group.


  7. - Ashland Adam - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 3:28 pm:

    Teachers and school workers who - through no fault of their own - are forced to quarantine, should definitely be allowed PTO. Isn’t this why the Fed Govt. made billions of Covid relief funds available? That way, it doesn’t fall to districts.

    Those who cannot be vaccinated, but are following safety protocols as laid out by school districts, for example those who are immune compromised and have a legitimate, documented health issue, should be included.

    Anti -vaxers? Can be vaccinated….but refuse? Too bad. Exclude them.


  8. - tough - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 3:29 pm:

    While I agree with the governor’s position, many vaccinated teachers (usually with children) have already burned through their sick leave due to COVID and have had to take unpaid leave and may have to again before the school year ends. This is a problem that needs to be addressed ASAP and the current bill does not address this situation.


  9. - Norseman - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 3:30 pm:

    Thanks Emily for alleviating my scratching. I don’t want to lose the few hairs I have left up there.

    This makes sense and I support the Gov’s position.


  10. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 3:30 pm:

    ===and the current bill does not address this situation===

    Yes it does. It restores sick leave to the beginning of the school year if it was covid-related. That’s in the post above, btw.


  11. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 3:33 pm:

    Good work by Emily Miller, well done.

    Let’s hope that all sides can quickly realize the necessary steps to move this expeditiously


  12. - UGHHHHH...NEGOTIATE - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 3:56 pm:

    This bill undermines the Governor’s efforts by dis-incentivizing employees to vaccinate with almost unlimited ability to claim connections to Covid absences….. Rewarding those who haven’t followed the guidance and mandate, by granting time and reestablishing used time….while the vaccinated are somewhat punished for getting on board. Poor form at best.


  13. - Loop Lady - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 3:57 pm:

    Absolutely the right call. I have family on the medical profession and their individual decision to forgo vaccination is a huge drain on personnel and the medical establishment, I’m not referring to children under five.

    This Governor is not afraid to make the right decision.


  14. - JS Mill - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 4:03 pm:

    = Isn’t this why the Fed Govt. made billions of Covid relief funds available? That way, it doesn’t fall to districts.=

    The funds do not allow schools to be reimbursed for teacher sick days or the cost of subs. At least the ISBE denied my grant request when I tried.


  15. - Old Lobster - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 4:15 pm:

    Am I missing something here? Why are we saddling our local governments with this unfunded mandate for teachers? Who’s next at the trough? University employees? Police and firefighters? Rank and file state employees? And after the CTU held the City of Chicago hostage. Teachers do not deserve this benefit anymore than any other public employee. You want to see hardship? Take a look at private sector employees who are forced to take time off.


  16. - wayward - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 4:26 pm:

    Had an exchange with a (vaccinated) teacher friend who was worried about burning through her PTO staying away from school pending a test when she had potential COVID symptoms. My initial reaction was “Oh, if they were really serious about you doing that, they’d give you the paid leave.”


  17. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 5:06 pm:

    I hope this bill will allow for COVID related sick day use by vaccinated school staff to be fully reimbursed, going back to the beginning of the school year. We have no choice in reporting to work.

    Unvaccinated staff are lucky to get the option to weekly test instead.
    They don’t deserve unlimited paid leave.


  18. - Pot calling kettle - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 5:10 pm:

    Local districts can do this on their own. Districts with a collective bargaining agreement can negotiate a contract addendum; in districts without a CBA, the school board can pass a new board policy. Not as good as a state-wide law, but still possible.


  19. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 5:38 pm:

    ==Local districts can do this on their own.==

    Sure, if the district agrees with the union to provide this relief. So far, our district ain’t going for it.


  20. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 5:42 pm:

    The 5:38 comment was mine.


  21. - Flapdoodle - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 5:44 pm:

    The current bill before the Guv is a no go. He’s right not to sign it.

    The legislature needs to address this issue pronto.

    For vaxed teachers, allow a negotiated number paid sick days for COVID-related illness (self and family members). If exceeded, allow unpaid sick days with no effect on seniority, benefits, etc. Minimize the impact on those doing the right thing.

    Apply above to those who have legitimate reasons not to get vaxed.

    For the unvaxed, no additional paid sick days. If exceeded, they’re on their own. Allow option to recover paid sick days, benefits, etc. if they become vaxed within certain time frame.


  22. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 7:08 pm:

    @ Old Lobster
    Police and fire are public safety positions which are by nature in a higher risk category. Unless medically contradicted, either get vaccinated or give up your job, period. It’s amazing how many people don’t want to take personal responsibility with this virus. If taxpayers are paying for the hospital and funeral costs for the public, maybe the taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for the person.


  23. - Because I said so.... - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 7:11 pm:

    @Old Lobster - this bill includes public universities as well.


  24. - Excitable Boy - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 7:29 pm:

    - they decide they did their part and no more jabs? -

    I recommend you take the same stance with tetanus shots Todd, which require lifelong boosters.


  25. - Unionman - Tuesday, Jan 18, 22 @ 8:26 pm:

    Maybe the Governor should lead by example and reinstate COVID time off (without going through your sick leave) for fully vaccinated State employees. During the height of the pandemic, the Governor had instituted COVID time off of up to 14 days without going into accrued sick time. He got rid of it in August 2021. I am fully vaccinated and got COVID and had to take off for my 10 day quarantine using up my sick time.


  26. - NonAFSCMEStateEmployeeFromChatham - Wednesday, Jan 19, 22 @ 5:12 am:

    ==Maybe the Governor should lead by example and reinstate COVID time off (without going through your sick leave) for fully vaccinated State employees. During the height of the pandemic, the Governor had instituted COVID time off of up to 14 days without going into accrued sick time.==

    My state office (not under Governor’s or CMS jurisdiction) has never had “Covid time” even for vaccinated employees. Not even when AFSCME was griping about it last summer. Never had COvid time in my office. If you got sick or required to quarantine you had to use your own time.


  27. - NonAFSCMEStateEmployeeFromChatham - Wednesday, Jan 19, 22 @ 5:15 am:

    - they decide they did their part and no more jabs? =

    I’ve been saying ever since the pandemic started and vaccine development began that I can eventually foresee that the COVID vaccine will be eventually at least an annual or even twice-yearly booster. Perhaps given as part of the flu shot, eventually. I anticipate COVID vaccine chemicals probably will get incorporated into the flu vaccine compounds sometime, hopefully by this fall’s flu shot.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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