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The City Of San Diego Extends Vaccine Mandate Deadline For Its Employees

The City of San Diego, State of California Seal is shown on a window in San Diego on September 29, 2021.
City of San Diego
The City of San Diego, State of California Seal in San Diego on September 29, 2021.

San Diego was the first major city in the county to issue a vaccine mandate for its workers. City officials announced on Tuesday that the deadline has been extended until December 1, 2021, but the vaccine mandate is still in place. The original deadline was November 2, 2021.

The City of San Diego currently employs over 11,300 workers, including police, firefighters, white and blue collar jobs.

The City Of San Diego Extends Vaccine Mandate Deadline For Its Employees
Listen to this story by Melissa Mae.

Legal analyst Dan Eaton told KPBS the city is within its rights to enforce a vaccine mandate.

“The city can certainly mandate a vaccination for its employees subject to the widely received exceptions for bonafide religious objections and medical conditions or disability that may be getting vaccinated unwarranted,” Eaton said.

“We’re talking about a pandemic, the exposure to which has potentially life and death consequences,” Eaton continued. “When you’re talking about city workers, you’re talking about broad exposure to the city population.”

Eaton said he does not know the exact details of the negotiations between the city and several unions, but had a possible explanation for the vaccine mandate deadline extension.

“I assume the reason for the extension is to give the city more time to bargain with the union and to make sure that they really have explored all possible avenues to reaching an agreement. That is always the preferred alternative,” Eaton said.

“A vaccine mandate is a change in the terms and conditions of employment and the city has a duty to bargain in good faith over that change,” Eaton said. “The city is taking a hard line because the pandemic has proven to be uniquely uncompromising in its impact and the effect it has as an obstacle to resuming normal business operations.”

He said unvaccinated city employees do not have a lot of options.

“The whole idea of a mandate is that if there is noncompliance, the consequence is termination of employment, and so that is what you’ll see,” Eaton noted.

If unvaccinated employees are fired, Eaton says it could be a strain on the city.

“What you’re going to have is a strain on resources. Not as many people are going to be available to do the jobs that need to be done,” Eaton continued. “Which means more overtime, which is a higher expense to the city and it means more being done with fewer people.”

Negotiations are scheduled to begin November 1, 2021 on how medical and religious vaccine exemptions will work.