The union representing the city’s correction officers sued City Hall on Wednesday in hopes of halting the “draconian vaccine mandate” that has exacerbated the agency’s staffing crisis.
Hundreds of officers who refused to get the jab by last week’s deadline have been sent home — and the suit also seeks to undo the city’s order requiring officers to work 60-hour weeks in order to help make up for the lost manpower.
“This practice is treating us like slave labor and it will only result in officers getting sick or injured by assaultive inmates, who feed on their vulnerabilities,” Correction Officers Benevolent Association president Benny Boscio Jr. said of the policy mandating the increased workload.
While most municipal workers had until Oct. 29 to get vaccinated, de Blasio gave uniformed corrections officers until Dec. 1 to receive their first jab because of the ongoing staffing shortage at the troubled Rikers Island jail complex.
“Despite that delay, the ongoing staffing crisis at Rikers Island has not been resolved,” says the suit, which was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.
“In no way is the twelve-hour and five appearances per week a sustainable solution to the staffing crisis. Without the arbitrary, capricious, and ill-timed vaccine mandate, it would not even be a necessary short-term measure,” the suit argues.
As of last Thursday, over 500 correction officers were placed on unpaid leave for refusing the vaccine.
Another 9% of DOC uniformed staff who have applied for medical or religious exemptions were continuing to report to work as the city reviews their cases.
Instead of the vaccine requirement, the union is seeking a return to a vaccine or test option for its workers — an earlier policy that was imposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio last August.
“We have already lost 1,400 officers since 2019 due to resignations and retirements and this inhumane practice will only further drive officers out the door,” Boscio said in a statement.
In response to the suit, a spokesman with the city Law Department said: “The City is grateful for every officer who has gotten vaccinated. We’re confident the mandate and the 12 hour shifts will be upheld by the court.”