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Unions, local leaders weigh in on Cuomo’s COVID vaccination mandate

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 5:06 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Governor Cuomo has given state employees an ultimatum: get vaccinated or get tested weekly for COVID-19. Plus, he wants local governments to require the same.

The president of the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA) says the governor’s mandate takes away his members’ right to choose

“We’ve had no input. We had nothing coming down the pipe and, from what I understand, many of the agencies were not even aware of it as well,” said Mike Powers, president of NYSCOPBA, the union representing correction officers.

Cuomo says all state employees will be required to get vaccinated by Labor Day or get tested weekly for COVID-19.

He’s also mandating that all patient-facing state hospital workers must get the vaccine; not giving them the choice to get a weekly test instead.

Powers feels the mandate is taking away his members’ right to decide and ultimately could hurt them in numbers.

“We’re afraid with this mandate coming down, you may get some people that may now deter from wanting to apply for the job and we need applicants,” he said.

The governor says the state will work with the unions to implement these new requirements, but Powers believes that should have been done before it was mandated and made public.

“It’s just frustrating. It’s constant. Every time we turn around there is another edit out there that comes out of the woodwork,” he said.

Frustrations are echoed by New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association President Thomas Mungeer.

He told the NY Daily News, “While we await contact from the governor’s office with more information, we are reviewing our legal options since we believe this is a change in the terms and conditions of our employment.”

Cuomo doesn’t want the mandate to stop there.

“I encourage all local governments to do the same. It’s smart, it’s fair, it’s in everyone interests,” said Cuomo.

Some north country leaders don’t agree.

“If he wants it to happen at the local level, that will have to come from the Department of Health. So, it’s not anything that we’re going to initiate on our own. We are not going to carve out Jefferson County to be different than anybody else,” said Jefferson County Board of Legislators Chairman Scott Gray.

“For the government to tell you that you have to do that in order to stay employed and so forth is something, I think, is going a little too far,” said Bill Sheridan, St. Lawrence County Legislature chairman.

Some other unions are also speaking out about the new mandate. The Civil Service Employees Assocition says it supports it, while the Public Employees Federation and the United University Professions say changes would need to be negotiated before they are put in place.

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