LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - A Los Angeles fire captain who called the city's vaccination requirement for city workers "tyranny" is being investigated by the department's Professional Standards Division for appearing to be on duty and speaking out against the city policy while wearing his uniform, department officials announced Monday.
Noting that he would "catch total grief" from the fire department, Capt. Christian Granucci said in a video posted on the Telegram app and then shared on Twitter by journalist Jasmyne Cannick that there were hundreds of firefighters who have retained a lawyer to fight the requirement.
"When will this tyranny stop. I'll tell you when it's going to stop. It's going to stop right here, right now, and I'm putting my administration and my union on blast. You had the opportunity to get in front of this and you didn't. We want to give you the opportunity to do the right thing and represent the membership," Granucci said.
"Know this. There is a large group of us -- in the hundreds -- and we have an attorney on retainer and he is a shark. We'll give you the opportunity to stand up and take the fiery arrows from the adversary of tyranny and step in front of this and fight for us. But if you don't, our plan b: a large group and it is growing by the day."
The Los Angeles Fire Department said in a statement that it was made aware of the video Monday morning.
"While we respect the individual's right to his opinion, he is not authorized to speak on behalf of the department. The individual is in uniform and appears to be on duty, thereby giving the impression that he is speaking in an official capacity. Therefore, the matter has been submitted to our Professional Standards Division for investigation, which may lead to disciplinary actions," the LAFD's statement reads.
The Los Angeles Fire Department's union said in a statement that it does not support any city policy that makes vaccination a condition of employment.
"Similar to the debate taking place throughout our country over vaccinations, there is passionate discussion regarding this issue in our fire stations. The majority of our firefighters have voluntarily been vaccinated and more are choosing to do so each week. We continue to encourage our members to get vaccinated, but we do not support any city policies that make it a condition of employment," said Freddy Escobar, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112.
The Los Angeles City Council last week approved an ordinance requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all city employees except for those who have medical or religious exemptions.
"When we originally moved to require city employees to be vaccinated, we were one of the first cities in the country to do so. Now multiple states, including California, and other large cities across the country have all began to require their public servants be vaccinated," Council President Nury Martinez said then. "This is not radical, this is just common sense.
"How can we ask Angelenos to be vaccinated if we are not doing it ourselves? We need to set the strong example for our communities. The vaccines are available, they're effective, and they're keeping people out of the hospital and off ventilators," Martinez said.
Under the ordinance, non-exempt employees must receive their first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer two-dose vaccine no later than Sept. 7, and their second dose no later than Oct. 5. Employees who choose to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will have to be inoculated by Oct. 5.
"Vaccine mandates are nothing new and they are not illegal," said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School. "Vaccine mandates have been a part of our state and our country's history for a century now."
Exemption requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and be due by Sept. 7. People will be qualified for an exemption if they have a medical condition or sincerely held religious beliefs, practices or observances that prevent them from receiving the vaccine.
The ordinance does not include finalized consequences for employees who do not get vaccinated and aren't eligible for an exemption, but Vivienne Swanigan of the City Attorney's Office told council members that the consequences are being hashed out with labor unions.
Escobar said in his statement that the union is in discussions with the city "because our highly skilled and experienced LAFD firefighters and paramedics cannot be easily replaced -- especially in a department that is already understaffed."
"The unexpected departure of even a small percentage of our workforce would have a devastating impact on public safety in Los Angeles," Escobar added.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)
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