Queens Councilwoman Paladino calls on mayor to lift COVID-19 vaccine mandate for civil servants

Councilwoman Vickie Paladino addresses the unvaccinated civil servants unable to work. (Photo by Ethan Marshall/QNS)

Queens Councilwoman Vickie Paladino hosted a large gathering of civil servants in front of the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Tuesday, March 29, to call upon Mayor Adams to lift the vaccine mandates in their departments and allow them to return to their jobs.

Those in attendance included teachers, sanitation workers, hospital and EMS workers and members of the NYPD, FDNY and MTA, among others.

Paladino stressed the importance of these workers, with many of them having worked throughout the height of the pandemic when most people stayed home.

“These people are the backbone of New York City,” Paladino said, adding that she would love to see each civil servant be able to return to work.

After Mayor Adams announced last week that mandates for entertainers and performers in New York City would be eliminated, many civil servants who were put on unpaid leave or terminated from their jobs for not getting the vaccine expressed frustration with the mayor for not prioritizing them after everything they had done for the city, especially at the height of COVID-19.

Many of the speakers during the “Reinstate and Compensate” press conference shared that frustration and some speakers stressed to Adams that he can and should remove the mandates for civil servants and give them their jobs back.

One speaker, who identified himself as a court officer who got vaccinated, proposed that Adams let the unvaccinated workers return to their jobs and undergo weekly COVID-19 tests. He also said that the termination of court employees negatively affects the justice system, as there is less manpower to take on and oversee the cases.

MTA conductor Tramell Thompson said the 1,400 workers who were put on unpaid leave or terminated actually make up a much larger number. Many of these workers are responsible for taking care of their friends and families.

“Those 1,400 people take care of other people,” Thompson said. “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Sophy Medina, a former firefighter and founder of Bravest for Choice, contradicted Adams’s claim that getting vaccinated upon its availability as a condition for working as a civil servant was untrue. She also expressed the importance of experienced firefighters like herself who have not been allowed to work.

“Experience of veteran first responders cannot be replaced,” Medina said. “Our work is no less important than professional athletes and performers.”

Michael Kane, a member of Teachers for Choice, said the organization has multiple lawsuits going against the city of New York in court, with one dating as far back as six months. According to Kane, they’ve already achieved a minor victory, as the city had to allow the workers to reapply for religious exemptions. However, Kane said the organization and Adams administration do not necessarily have to fight each other in court to get the civil servants back to work.

“Mayor Adams has the power to end this,” Kane said.

Paladino emphasized that the press conference was not a slight toward Adams but rather to show him just how big of an impact his vaccine mandates on civil servants have on them and the city as a whole.

“I’m calling upon [Mayor Adams] to rise up and give these people back their jobs,” Paladino said. “These people are the heartbeat of New York City and we slowly watched the heartbeat stop over the last two years.”

But Paladino does not want lifting vaccine mandates to stop with civil servants, saying she believes all mandates in the city need to be rolled back and the unvaccinated workers rehired.