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Pittsburgh Firefighters Union's Grievance Over City Vaccine Mandate Granted

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - An arbitrator granted a grievance filed by the Pittsburgh firefighters union against the city of Pittsburgh over its employee vaccine mandate.

On Monday, arbitrator Gerald Kobell ruled the city of Pittsburgh violated state labor law by refusing to bargain with Pittsburgh Firefighters Local No. 1 about the mandate.

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The city made an announcement on Nov. 1 that all employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 22. The union filed its grievance two days later.

With Monday's ruling, the city will have to come to negotiate with the firefighters union about the mandate.

Kobell wrote in the arbitration award, "I shall therefore order the City of Pittsburgh to cease violating the Agreement and to engage in both decisional and effects bargaining about the mandate, with the Union, excluding the mandate itself."

The arbitration award states, "The grievance is granted with respect to the City of Pittsburgh's refusal to bargain concerning the implementation of the vaccine mandate on the terms and conditions of employment City's fire fighters. The City of Pittsburgh is ordered to cease and desist refusing to bargain with the Union over the rules and procedures or protocols to implement the vaccine mandate, as they affect firefighters. I shall retain jurisdiction for 30 days to monitor compliance, subject to further extension for good cause shown."

The union opened its hall for vaccine clinics, and the arbitrator said firefighters took steps to promote vaccines by making the hall available for firefighters and other city employees.

A statement from Pittsburgh Firefighters Local No. 1 said, in part:

"Although the City received $333,000,000.00 in COVID relief money from the federal government, it made no absolutely no effort to educate, incentivize, or assist its firefighters to become vaccinated. It wasn't until after 3 police officers died from COVID-19 during late September/October of 2021 that the City took any action whatsoever. Meanwhile, during December of 2020, Local 1 partnered with Hilltop, a local pharmacy, to open its union hall as a vaccine clinic. Local 1 was able to get 85% of its membership as well as thousands of people in the community vaccinated. Rather than respect Local 1's efforts, the City blatantly violated the firefighters' bargaining rights. The City had promised Local 1 that it would sit down and bargain if it decided to issue a vaccine mandate. However, the firefighters found out about the mandate on the very same day as the public learned through the Mayor's Press Release on November 1st, 2021 - - the day before the general election."

The city and its legal department have not responded to KDKA's request for comment.

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