After nearly a year of legal battles, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter has relented on his vaccine mandate for city employees.
Carter announced the change in an email Friday, saying “such a requirement is no longer necessary.”
“Over the course of this past year throughout legal proceedings, and even through a court-ordered suspension of parts of the requirement, more than 2,700 of us on Team Saint Paul stepped forward to get vaccinated, joining in the fight against COVID. Thanks to so many of you doing your part, alongside countless others across our community, state and nation, we’ve finally moved beyond the most challenging phase of the global public health crisis,” he said.
St. Paul’s mandate was stricter than other cities because it did not offer any testing alternative. As a result, the city was sued by five labor unions, including the St. Paul Police Federation and the firefighters union.
“We are not anti-vaccine, nor are we conspiracy theorists — we are reasonable and dedicated public servants who believe in personal choice. From day one, we’ve attempted to negotiate with city leadership to allow for a testing option for our unvaccinated employees, but the city has refused,” the police union said in announcing its November lawsuit.
Already short staffed, the union said the mandate could have resulted in 100 unvaccinated officers being “relieved of their duties.”
In their lawsuits, the unions argued that the mandate was an unfair labor practice that should have been dealt with in the bargaining process. Ramsey County Chief Judge Leonardo Castro agreed with the unions in June and prevented the city from enforcing its mandate until it was settled through negotiations or arbitration.
St. Paul initially appealed Castro’s decision but voluntarily withdrew its appeal on Friday, according to the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, one of the unions that sued.
“We’re pleased the city of St. Paul finally came to its senses and stopped wasting taxpayer dollars on prolonged litigation,” IUOE Local 49 Business Manager Jason George said in a press release. “St. Paul’s actions violated bedrock principles of labor law, and Judge Castro made the right call. We’re pleased with the outcome of this case and will continue defending workers’ rights and making sure collective bargaining agreements are enforced.”