Judge Denies Request by LAFD Firefighters Union for Injunction to Block Vaccine Mandate Enforcement

Los Angeles Fire Department engine
Los Angeles Fire Department engine. Photo by Rick McClure

Benjamin Oreskes

Los Angeles Times

(MCT)

A Superior Court judge has denied a request by the Los Angeles Fire Department firefighters union seeking a preliminary injunction to delay enforcement of the city’s vaccine mandate.

The ruling is “a victory for public health and safety in Los Angeles,” City Atty. Mike Feuer said in a statement.

“The Court recognized the emergency we’re in, and the harm that enjoining implementation of the vaccine mandate could have caused,” Feuer said. “Beyond this case, the presence of the new, highly contagious variant here in L.A. underscores the importance of vaccinating our first responders — indeed, of vaccinating everyone.”

The firefighters union had sued in November asking that the vaccine mandate, which is scheduled to take effect Dec. 18, be delayed to allow for proper bargaining procedures. The union had wanted a preliminary injunction preventing enforcement of the mandate.

“The court finds [United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112] has not made the significant showing of irreparable harm necessary to enjoin a public entity in the performance of its duties,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel wrote Friday in her ruling.

Later Strobel wrote, “Evidence also supports that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on the city’s firefighters and even resulted in the death of two of its members.”

A lawyer for the firefighters union had argued that the union wasn’t opposed to the mandate or the validity of the ordinance but that the city had not bargained fairly.

The lawyer, Dana Martinez, added that roughly 400 firefighters might be put on unpaid leave later this month. The union has a complaint before the Los Angeles City Employee Relations Board and wanted a preliminary injunction until that dispute is resolved. The union alleges the city has bargained in bad faith concerning the mandate.

City workers have until Dec. 18 to seek exemptions to the mandate and to make a case for why they can’t get vaccinated. If they fail to comply, they could be placed on unpaid leave and potentially lose their jobs.

Last month, United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112 President Freddy Escobar said the Los Angeles Fire Department could see a loss of resources and staff positions similar to the budget cuts in the department during the 2008 economic downturn.

The department is investigating an incident in which a firefighter “responded inappropriately” after being handed a letter to comply with the city’s vaccine mandate, a department spokeswoman said Wednesday.

In September, a separate group of 500 Los Angeles firefighters filed a lawsuit against the city over its requirement that L.A. employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.

City News Service contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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