The head of Chicago’s police union came to City Council chambers Monday and called on aldermen to take back from Mayor Lori Lightfoot the power to decide whether city workers should be required to report their vaccine status.
With Lightfoot looking on, local Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara told aldermen to stand up to the mayor.
“It is not a queen on that throne, it is a mayor,” said Catanzara, who has engaged in a public fight with the mayor over the mandate in recent weeks.
Aldermen introduced an ordinance calling for Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate to be voided and requiring City Council approval for “all policies, rules and regulations governing discipline of city employees.” Sixteen of the council’s 50 aldermen had signed on as co-sponsors by 10:30 a.m.
Catanzara predicted Lightfoot officials will try to quash the ordinance, introduced by Southwest Side Ald. Silvana Tabares and Northwest Side Ald. Anthony Napolitano, but said the union hopes to force aldermen to take a roll call vote on it “so we know who we’re going after in 2023,” referring to the next city elections.
“The city cannot be run by one dictator on the fifth floor anymore,” Catanzara said.
After calling on City Council supporters of the ordinance to raise their hands, Catanzara said the union is “taking a report card, and anybody who does not raise their hand, you will be challenged in 2023. We are coming for every one of your damn seats.”
Aldermen in chambers, meanwhile, generally milled around in conversation with one another or sat there passively. Reporters did not see anyone raising their hand during Catanzara’s remarks.
Also Monday, several dozen FOP protesters lined up outside City Hall to push against Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate for city workers and advocate for an ordinance that would give aldermen approval powers over future vaccine rules.
One counter protester walked among the FOP supporters while carrying a sign that said, “Opposing vaccines? Support and protect, my ass.” FOP backers responded by chanting, “Screw your mandate!”
And Southwest Side Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, introduced a resolution calling on the city to ensure that dependents of any city employees placed on no-pay status for failing to report their vaccine status do not lose health care benefits.
That resolution and the proposed ordinance to give aldermen power over the vaccine mandate were sent to the council’s Rules Committee.
At least 21 Chicago police officers were placed on no-pay status last week for refusing to comply with the city’s order. That requirement said all city employees had to submit their vaccination status by Oct. 15, and those who are unvaccinated can instead undergo regular COVID-19 testing for the rest of the year.
Almost 68% of more than 12,000 Chicago police employees have met the vaccination reporting requirement, Chicago police Superintendent David Brown said last week. He maintained many staffers are choosing to comply after speaking with higher-ups about how the mandate works.
The Chicago FOP has refused to cooperate, with Catanzara repeatedly urging members to disobey the city until a Cook County judge issued a temporary restraining order last week barring him from such public statements.
In a hearing Monday morning in Cook County Circuit Court, an attorney for the city, Michael Warner, reiterated that it wants to extend the restraining order against Catanzara, which is due to expire at midnight Monday night, and expand it to other FOP officials, who Warner said have been speaking out instead of Catanzara as a way of “getting around the order.”
FOP attorney Joel D’Alba indicated he would not support such a measure. He again is seeking to transfer the case from Cecilia Horan to another judge.
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