Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

LA City Council Votes to Require COVID-19 Vaccines for All Current and Future City Employees


Yesterday was a big day for the LA City Council.  First, it voted to formally oppose the state-level housing bills SB 9 and SB 10, and then, in an additional Special Meeting, it voted unanimously to approve a new ordinance requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all city employees, present and future.  (The ordinance does allow those who can’t be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons to apply for exemptions, and to submit to regular testing instead, but it does not allow a testing option for those who can be vaccinated.)

Although comments in a short public comment period were mixed on the subject of vaccine requirements for city employees (two commenters supported the measure, while six opposed it for various reasons including the need for further negotiations with labor unions, and the questioned safety and efficacy of the vaccines), comments from the eight Council Members who spoke before the vote were solidly approving.

Introducing Council comments on the new vaccination ordinance, Council President Nury Martinez said that “doing our part” in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles means getting vaccinated and taking all precautions necessary to stop the spread of the virus.  “Now is the time to step up and lead to put this pandemic behind us,” she said.

Council Member Mark Ridley-Thomas called the pandemic “a crisis of extraordinary measure,” and said that unlike a year ago, we now have the knowledge and tools to effectively stop the spread of the virus, so taking this action is necessary.  “When you know better, you ought to do better, ” he said, adding that the vaccines’ “efficacy is irrefutable,” and the only reason we have not yet reached herd immunity is that too many people have not chosen to get the vaccine, and it’s time for the city to step in.  “Public service at its very best should protect public health,” he said.

Council Member Paul Koretz said he wouldn’t change a word of what Ridley-Thomas said, and added that it’s now clear that most people dying from COVID-19 are the unvaccinated, “and why would you be content to keep yourself in that category?”  Also, he said, the city, as an employer, needs to do whatever it can to keep its employees alive.

This was a common theme for several council members.  Council Member Paul Krekorian said that when the pandemic first hit, and the city responded with mass testing efforts, city employees were on the front lines of that effort, and have remained the key responders in the face of many risks.  So the city has an obligation as an employer, he said, to keep those employees safe in every way possible, whether that means providing proper protective gear, or making sure everyone is vaccinated.  And for those who have doubts about the development, testing, or safety of the vaccines, Krekorian noted that they have now been used in hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and – in fact – may be the most widely used drug in history…so it is now our duty as citizens to get vaccinated and to keep more people from dying.

Although he, too, supported the motion, Council Member Kevin DeLeon agreed with one of the public comments that the city’s labor unions do need “a voice at the table” in working out the fine points of the new regulations.  Council Member Gil Cedillo agreed that the city’s unions should be partners in this effort… and also acknowledged public concerns about freedom of choice issues.  But he noted that there are many kinds of rights and freedoms, and said sometimes we have to choose the greater good, as the city did when it prohibited smoking in the workplace to help protect everyone’s health.  So the city is protecting individual rights in this case, too, he said, but also making a clear statement that “public service is a privileged position,” and the city has a duty to do all it can to help stop the spread of the virus. “We want to make sure your first responders are going to be safe whey they come to see you,” he said.  

Council Member Mitch O’Farrell also agreed on taking care to include the city’s unions moving forward, and consulted representatives from the City Attorney’s office at the meeting to make sure the new ordinance will apply equally to all city employees, unionized and not…and that there will also be requirements for the city to “meet and confer” with unions moving forward.  (The answer to both questions was “yes.”)

Thus reassured, O’Farrell also noted that the United States Supreme Court upheld the idea of vaccine requirements back in the 1980s, and said that the city needs to do all it can to protect its own.  “It is out of love…that we need you all to get vaccinated,” he said, urging people to listen to medical experts — “everything else is conspiratorial nonsense.” “We have to stop fighting science and start fighting the virus…We want you to live; we want your family to be healthy.”

In the end, the vote was 13-0 in favor of the new vaccination requirements. (Council Members Marqueece Harris-Dawson and John Lee (who has previously stated his opposition to vaccine mandates) were absent.)  City employees will be required to report their vaccination status and/or request a medical or religious exemption, by October 19.


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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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