Vaccine Mandate Update
Aug 10, 2021

Good afternoon CEMA members,

CEMA has heard loudly and clearly that many of you are concerned about yesterday's announcement that the County will be mandating vaccines.  CEMA membership is overall pro-vaccine with an estimated 84% vaccination rate but we must preserve our members’ rights and the County ignoring the mandatory meet and confer process is not acceptable.  

We are taking a solution oriented approach and have demanded to meet and confer with the County PRIOR to implementation.  In our analysis the County has presented a false choice - workplace safety only through a mandatory vaccine.  We all know many CEMA positions can efficiently and safely remote work and to divorce telework form office safety is irresponsible.  Please see the letter below our Executive Board sent to County leadership earlier this afternoon. 

Remember we are fighting for you and will be meeting with the County early next week.

Letter to County in full:

Jeff Smith, John Mills and Matthew Cottrell,  

The County’s implementation of a vaccine mandate policy prior to bargaining over the effects with CEMA violates the recent July 2021 PERB ruling Regents of the University of California (2021).  The ruling held that employers must bargain over the effects of vaccine mandates prior to implementation.   

On July 23rd, CEMA reached out to the County following this Mercury News article and asked to meet about a potential vaccine mandate.  The County refused and stated it had nothing to discuss.  Then, on July 30th, CEMA reached out again, asking to meet following this NBC news article.  The County alleged again that there was nothing to meet about.  Moreover, ESA assured CEMA that the County would follow appropriate Meet and Confer processes prior to implementing any vaccine mandate policy.  This was untrue and the County’s repeated deception that it was not about to implement a vaccine mandate policy in contravention of PERB is disrespectful to its employees and damaging to its relationship with CEMA who has been a stalwart partner and contributor to the County and this administration.   

The vaccine mandate is another instance of a troubling trend of major policy decisions being announced to the media prior to CEMA. Among these have been the issue of telework and return to work dates. This is no way to treat a reliable labor partner like CEMA.   

CEMA understands that Labor Relations’ job is to manage labor relations. It is not productive to ignore requests to meet weeks or months ahead of time and then surprise CEMA with finalized decisions under the cover of a health emergency.  The County has taken as its position a false choice, vaccine mandate OR safety at the workplace.  The County chose to require all CEMA workers to return to the worksite (which it now states is dangerous) and then presents a crisis of the County's own making.  If the County asserts the workplace is so dangerous that vaccination is mandatory, then it is dangerous enough that all CEMA members who worked at or near 100% productivity during the stay-at-home order should resume telework and social distancing immediately.     

Neither CEMA nor its members are anti-vaccine.  Our membership is overwhelmingly vaccinated.  CEMA actively sought to meet with the County to discuss a vaccine mandate policy that would work for our members, the County, and the public.  Instead, the County acted as though this decision was not imminent, delayed meeting until a policy was finalized and then implemented it the same day.   

The County has an obligation to meet and confer on the effects of this policy.  The decision to give our members a 15 day deadline or else (with the clock already ticking) is clearly one of those effects, as is whether or not employees without specific medical exemption can be accommodated with full telework, or whether this applies to employees on a long-term leave of absence.   

The policy states that its goal is to keep County staff safe and protected and that “COVID-19 vaccines are safe and are the most effective method of preventing people from getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19”.  However, social distancing and isolation have also been extremely effective at combating the spread of Covid.  This policy to “keep staff safe” is rolling out at the same time County employees, who teleworked over the last year, have been ordered back into the office.  There are departments throughout the County where CEMA employees had equivalent or increased productivity while on full time telework.  These staff have been ordered back into the office or given hybrid 2-3 day telework schedules—as if the virus only spreads on Mondays and Tuesdays.  CEMA asked the County for more than a year to meet and work on a post-return to the office telework policy.  The County rejected the requests, stating it was not a priority until it released an overly complex, unworkable telework policy just prior to ordering staff back to the office.     

CEMA and its members will be able to reach agreement with some version of a vaccine mandate policy, but we will not be able to find agreement with repeated refusals to respect labor rights and CEMA members’ right to have a voice. 

Cease and desist implementation of this policy until the County has met its obligation under PERB to bargain effects. 

CEMA Executive Board and Staff