A judge in Illinois on Friday ordered the head of the Chicago police union to stop encouraging members not to get a COVID-19 vaccine, just hours before the city’s deadline for officers took effect.
Cook County Circuit Judge Cecilia Horan issued the ruling after a lengthy emergency hearing on a request for injunctive relief that the city filed earlier in the day, local news outlets reported.
John Catanzara, the president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, urged officers this week not to comply with the city’s requirement for them to reveal whether they’ve gotten a COVID-19 vaccine.
“I’ve made my status very clear as far as the vaccine, but I do not believe the city has the authority to mandate that to anybody—let alone that information about your medical history,” he said in a video posted on the union’s YouTube page.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused union leadership of “trying to foment an illegal work stoppage, a strike,” and the city launched a lawsuit, leading to the judge’s order. The union filed a motion to dismiss in return and a separate lawsuit, which asked a judge to order arbitration.
All city workers, including officers, were required to report their vaccination status by Oct. 15. Unvaccinated workers must undergo twice-weekly COVID-19 testing and pay for the tests out of their own pocket. Workers who do not share their vaccination status were facing being suspended. Additionally, a Dec. 31 deadline is in place for all employees to get fully vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19, unless they are approved for a religious or medical exemption.
The restraining order on Catanzara is in place until Oct. 25, when another hearing is scheduled to take place.
In a brief statement, the Chicago Department of Law described the ruling but offered no further comment.
Catanzara released a 1-minute video shortly after the judge’s order, telling members that the judge granted a restraining order.
“With that being said, everybody has to do what’s in their hearts and minds, whatever that is,” he added, before holding a sign suggesting he was running for mayor in 2023.
A lawyer for the city said in court that the mandate would not be enforced over the weekend, NBC Chicago reported.
But he indicated that once the number of officers who refused to comply was calculated, there would be punishment levied.
“At some point for individuals and officers who still have not reported their status in the portal, when that information is tabulated, for those who are still not in compliance, there will be enforcement,” he said. “They could be disciplined, or they could be sent home and put in a no-pay status.”