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Hennepin County deputies union sues over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Unions representing deputies and heavy equipment operators are asking a judge for an injunction to block the April 4 mandate deadline.
Credit: KARE
Hennepin County Government Center

MINNEAPOLIS — Unions representing Hennepin County Deputies, as well as heavy equipment operators/mechanics and stationary engineers, are suing Hennepin County and asking for a temporary injunction to prevent a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees from going into effect April 4.

According to the complaint filed in Hennepin County District Court, the Minnesota County Sheriff's Deputies Association followed the grievance process. They met with the county in December to attempt to "negotiate the impacts of the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy and to address reasonable alternatives to accommodate” members who won’t get vaccinated.

Then, on Feb. 15, they met again where union members discussed the threat to public safety if the county fires employees who aren't vaccinated.

Finally, the parties selected an arbitrator earlier this week, but they will not have the arbitration award in time for the April 4 vaccine mandate deadline.

"By requiring vaccination under threat of discipline, County unilaterally changed the terms and conditions of employment without completing the grievance process, an unfair labor practice according to state statute," wrote Mark Schneider of Law Enforcement Labor Services in Brooklyn Center, representing the deputy union.

They, as well as the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, had collective bargaining agreements that expired in December. However, they note that the sides are still bound to the agreement while a new one is being negotiated.

Hennepin County Administrator David Hough told KARE 11 vaccines are a "key part" of protecting others, while also helping to allow the easing of COVID restrictions.

"We know that vaccines are the best way to protect employees and the public we serve from serious health impacts from COVID. 

Last November, the county board passed a resolution creating a vaccine requirement.

To date, we have been extremely successful in implementing this requirement. In fact, more than 98% of county’s nearly 9,000 employees have been vaccinated or received a religious or medical accommodation.

We will be responding to the lawsuit and asserting that this county board decision regarding employee safety is not subject to collective bargaining."

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