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Unvaccinated New York City Employees Rally Against Vaccine Mandate Deadline, Thousands Expected To Lose Jobs

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Friday is deadline day for thousands of New York City workers: Get vaccinated against COVID-19, or lose your job.

As CBS2's Andrea Grymes reports, City Hall won't have final termination numbers until over the weekend. As of Friday afternoon, it was about 3,500-4,000 workers, but officials expect the number to drop considerably.

At a rally outside City Hall, a few hundred protesters gathered to speak out against COVID mandates, including Friday's deadline that all New York City municipal workers be vaccinated.

"By the end of this day, I'm facing termination as a New York City firefighter after 16 years of service to the city and its people," said Salvatore Maita.

Maita believes it should be his choice not to get the shot.


"Our very freedom, our very liberty is at cost here. This is not about any vaccine. And that's why I believe I'd rather make the sacrifice of losing my job to support that cause," Maita said.

The Uniformed Firefighters Association says 12 of its members will be terminated Friday over the mandate, and another 500 are still waiting for their exemption cases to be heard by the city.

The union says most of its members already had COVID.

"I will make one last plea to the mayor to accept natural immunity as an alternative to vaccination and spare the jobs of those firefighters and other New York City employees. Many, if not all, of these employees have antibodies and nothing to fear from this virus," said Uniformed Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro.

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio initially announced the vaccine mandate last October for some 370,000 municipal workers. Mayor Eric Adams is no enforcing it. He says they've had an amazing response from city employees.

"It's not about termination. It's about vaccination. We want people to be vaccinated. I don't want to see the city close down again and all we can do is continue to encourage people to get vaccinated, and hopefully people get the booster shot as well," Adams said.

Hundreds of unvaccinated workers from Queens and Staten Island took the Staten Island Ferry to Lower Manhattan then marched to City Hall. The event, dubbed "The Ferry to Freedom Rally," kicked off around 11 a.m.

"You're making the decision that you're not going to follow the rules of getting vaccinated, and that's a decision that they're making," Adams said.

"If you're fired for standing up for something that you believe in, it's just wrong. It's un-American," firefighter Paul Schweit said.


Despite the pushback, City Hall is looking at the positive as more than 95% of workers have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine that was required in October from the health commissioner.

Since many of the unvaccinated workers have been on leave without pay, the city expects a minimal impact on services.

Elijah Westbrook contributed to this report. 

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