By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media
The California Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000 has delivered a cease-and-desist letter to the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) opposing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new vaccine requirement for state employees.
The letter addressed to Paul Starkey, Deputy Director of Human Resources for CalHR, reads,
“This letter serves as a demand to meet and confer and as a formal objection to the implementation deadline until the meet and confer process is completed.”
SEIU 1000 is the largest public sector union in the state with nearly 100,000 members and one of the largest in the country, according to the organization’s website.
The governor announced the policy during a press conference on July 26. He said all state employees and health care workers will either have to test regularly for COVID-19 or provide evidence that they’ve been vaccinated by August 2, 2021.
Gov. Newsom says that the new requirement is a way to bolster efforts to vaccinate more Californians.
“We are now dealing with a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and it’s going to take renewed efforts to protect Californians from the dangerous Delta variant,” Newsom said.
“As the state’s largest employer, we are leading by example and requiring all state and health care workers to show proof of vaccination or be tested regularly, and we are encouraging local governments and businesses to do the same,” he continued.
Following the governor’s announcement, Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said the COVID-19 Delta variant as well as vaccine disinformation are justifications for the measure.
“California has administered more vaccines than any other state, with 75 % of those eligible having gotten at least one dose, and we were weeks ahead of meeting President Biden’s 70% goal. But we must do more to fight disinformation and encourage vaccine-hesitant communities and individuals,” Ghaly said.
“The Delta variant is up to 60 % more infectious than the Alpha strain but many times more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain. If you have been waiting to get vaccinated, now is the time,” Ghaly continued.
Newsom reassured Californians that vaccines are not dangerous and are the way forward for the state.
“Vaccines are safe – they protect our family, those who truly can’t get vaccinated, our children and our economy. Vaccines are the way we end this pandemic,” Newsom said.
However, the safety of the vaccine is not the union’s chief concern, according to the letter.
The letter claims that the lack of communication between the state and SEIU prior to the implementation of the mandate is the reason for their complaint.
The letter also alleges the governor’s office embarked on this decision without consulting SEIU, breaking a pattern of continued communication about changes in policy regarding COVID-19.
“Throughout the past eighteen months of the COVID-19 pandemic, State workers have been both on the front lines and forced to adjust to teleworking,” the letter reads.
“During this time, the State has issued hundreds of COVID related notices to the Union and offered to meet and confer over many changes or other matters within the scope of bargaining specifically pertaining to changes in procedures or policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter continues.
The letter claims that the labor union found out about the vaccine requirement during the press conference where the policy was made public.
“On July 26, 2021, the governor abruptly turned away from the legal requirements of notice and bargaining and instead held a press conference and issued a press release, followed shortly by your Notice,” the letter states.
“Rather than giving this Union the legal right to meet and confer over this important policy change, CalHR dodged its legal obligations concerning vaccination confirmation,” the letter concludes.
California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.