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St. Paul Police Federation files suit over vaccine mandate

In its suit, the Saint Paul Police Federation claims the city failed to "negotiate in good faith" before announcing the vaccination policy.
Credit: KARE 11

ST PAUL, Minn. — The Saint Paul Police Federation has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the city's COVID-19 vaccination mandate scheduled to take effect on Dec. 31.

In the suit, filed Tuesday in Ramsey County District Court, the Federation "seeks declaratory judgment and injunctive relief from the unfair labor practice committed by the City’s failure to meet and negotiate in good faith regarding a unilateral change to the terms and conditions of employment."

According to the lawsuit, the Federation is in ongoing negotiations with the city for a collective bargaining agreement, after the previous CBA expired at the end of 2020.

The suit says, as CBA negotiations were continuing, city officials announced its vaccination policy in September 2021. The Federation met with city officials twice in September, and was given a "memorandum of understanding" about the policy, which Federation officials did not sign.

The suit goes on to say that Federation leaders and legal counsel met with the city in October to propose mask and testing requirements for employees who were not fully vaccinated; but four days later, the union says it was told there would be no changes to the policy on testing.

The union also rejected a proposed city policy calling for discipline for employees who were not fully vaccinated, as the Federation again requested a testing requirement. 

"Even though the Federation and City were unable to reach an agreement regarding a COVID-19 vaccination policy, the City unilaterally imposed the policy," the lawsuit reads.

Mayor Melvin Carter announced the policy on Oct. 21, requiring all city workers to provide proof of vaccination, or those workers would not be permitted to work, and could be subject to discipline. Employees must be vaccinated by Dec. 31, and present proof of vaccination no later than Jan. 14.

The language of the city's policy references the issue of testing in lieu of vaccination, saying, "since testing only provides a way to determine if someone has COVID after they've already contracted it, offers no protection for an unvaccinated individual, nor for any individuals they interact with, our vaccine requirement will not include an opt-out for testing."

RELATED: St. Paul city workers required to get COVID-19 vaccine

The Federation's suit claims the policy "imposes new terms and conditions of employment" as "unilateral changes" that were not negotiated or agreed upon with the Federation, even as collective bargaining discussions continue.

The City of St. Paul has not released an official response to the lawsuit.