NBC 7 Investigates learned Monday that the city of San Diego is holding a closed meeting with employee-group leaders about its vaccination policy. The news comes after hundreds of San Diego police officers said they would rather be fired than get a vaccine.
Since Tuesday's meeting is essentially a contract negotiation, it's permissible under the Brown Act, the state’s open meetings law
The closed session is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday and will include labor-group leaders representing a variety of city employees, including police officers and firefighters. As it stands right now, San Diego city workers must get a vaccine by November.
A recent survey conducted by the San Diego Police Officers Association suggests that there is a major pushback to the mandate, however. In a survey of members, more than 730 responded, which is about a third of San Diego’s police force. Of that figure, more than 660 officers said they don't believe the City should mandate the COVID vaccine. Nearly 480 police officers said they would consider quitting their jobs, and more than 330 said they would rather be fired than get a shot. It's worth noting, the survey was conducted as the union continues to fight the City on the vaccine mandate.
It's a blistering reception that fire union president Jesse Conner said isn’t surprising. He said the city's labor relations “dropped the ball” on the vaccine mandate announcement.
Conner's frustration is somewhat surprising, considering that San Diego firefighters have a higher vaccine adoption rate than the rest of the county. But even with 80% of the city 940-plus firefighters fully vaccinated, Conner said he still got calls from upset and confused members, questions he said the city just wasn’t prepared to answer.
“We’ve said from the very beginning that a vaccine mandate is not a plan, it’s an end state," Conner said, "and we were a little bit frustrated that city human resources did not have an effective plan to get to that end state initially. We think that their initial communication was not great. It was not received well by the workforce because there were a lot of unanswered questions. And so we’re just trying to get answers to those questions.”
If San Diego does extend its vaccine mandate deadline, it would not be the first municipality to do so. Last week, Los Angeles delayed its mandate deadline, and on Monday, L.A. police officers filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to overturn that mandate.
In a statement sent to NBC 7 Investigates, Courtney Pittam, who is the press secretary for San Diego mayor Todd Gloria, commented on the police union survey results" "Polls don’t dictate our policies. We want to protect our public safety officers and the public.”
The city sent out a memo to all workers on Monday requiring them by Nov. 2 to report whether they have been vaccinated. Workers can no longer abstain from answering.