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Tucson city vaccine mandate gets 98% compliance

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 7:02 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - If there is any validation that vaccine mandates work, one might look no further than the city of Tucson.

When the Mayor and Council voted 6-1 on Aug. 13 to impose a vaccine mandate on its nearly 4,000 employees, 500 of refused to take the shots even though the mandate carried with it the threat of termination.

That termination date was set for Dec. 1, and is fast approaching.

It was thought many of the workers would wait until the courts ruled whether the mandate was legal, getting a challenge from Arizona State Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

When the courts ruled against Brnovich, the mandate became legal and the termination threat became real.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 23, only 86 city workers have received neither the vaccination nor an exemption but the number is expected to drop even more.

“We have several who are in the mix for exemptions so I expect those numbers to go down over time,” said Tucson City Manager Michael Ortega.

The latest numbers show the city is 98% compliant right now. Those with exemptions are required to take a test every week.

“I’m pleased to see the number of noncompliant employees continues to decline,” said Tucson Mayor Regina Romero. “I’m very happy about that.

When the city was threatened with potentially losing 500 of its workers, it put out a call for applications and thus far has received about 1,500 of them.

City leaders say they are pleased because it appears the concern over declining city services for its constituents will not come to fruition.

But it has also led the city to a new reality, that the workplace has changed and the desires of workers have morphed since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Workers want more from their employers such as flex time, four day workweeks, higher pay, work from home options and child care availability. Those are challenges, not just the city, but all employers face these days.

“Employees are not resources or assets, they’re human beings,” said Ortega. “When you think of them as resources or assets, they become non human.”

but the city also faces another challenge. It’s called the “senior tsunami.” More than 800 workers are eligible for retirement, nearly 20% of the city work force. They could walk anytime taking with them years of institutional knowledge.

No matter what happens, that will much be harder replace..

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