Local Politics

Raleigh to city workers: You want to be promoted? Get vaccinated

Posted September 15, 2021 3:36 p.m. EDT
Updated September 15, 2021 7:48 p.m. EDT

— City leaders have set a Friday deadline for most Raleigh workers to get vaccinated against coronavirus if they ever want to be promoted. Public safety workers like police officers and firefighters have until the end of the year to get their shots.

Raleigh has about 4,000 city employees. As of Wednesday, only 65 percent were fully vaccinated.

The city has been offering incentives of $250 and two extra vacation days to encourage workers to get their shots, but those carrots go away on Friday, replaced by the stick of having rungs removed from employees' career ladders.

"Holding promotions over people's heads is a pretty big deal because that's, that's financial, that's your salary," said Rick Armstrong, spokesman for the Raleigh Police Protective Association, the law enforcement division of Teamsters Local 391, which represents most Raleigh police officers.

"The city policy does not require a vaccine to be promoted, and they have made that requirement without implementing as a policy," Armstrong said. "So, I know there are what I believe to be valid grievances being filed on this particular requirement."

Raleigh police officers learned about the new vaccine mandate in an internal memo last week. Because it is a city mandate, the police department has no say in it.

Many police officers don't want to get vaccinated, arguing that it's their choice to decide whether they get the shot, Armstrong said.

"I've been vaccinated, and I support people getting vaccinated, but I also do not agree at all with a mandate," he said. "The city, I think, is going about ways to try to force our members and their employees to get these vaccines that a lot of them are just – just don't feel comfortable getting."

The city says they will make exceptions to this rule for medical and religious reasons, but those will be made on a case-by-case basis.

But at a time when the Raleigh Police Department is actively trying to fill vacancies and retain veteran officers, Armstrong said the new mandate could wind up driving some officers away.

"When you get promoted, you're less likely to be in contact with the public," he said. "The people that are on the streets are most likely to be the rank-and-file and the ones that are going to be in contact with the public, so that doesn't really make a lot of sense."

"There's a lot of other ways the city can go about this, and this is not really the most, the most effective way," he added.

Until the Dec. 31 deadline, unvaccinated first responders must undergo weekly tests for coronavirus.

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