CEMA Voice - Vaccine Mandate Update 8-20-2021
Aug 20, 2021

This is an update on the vaccine mandate policy.  This will cover two topics, both CEMA’s ongoing response to the policy and what CEMA members need to do to be in compliance with the current policy.

As always CEMA maintains its position as a Pro-Vaccine Union that is safeguarding member and union rights. The percentage of CEMA members vaccinated stands at over 85%, making us the most vaccinated Union in the County.  

The County has not agreed to a pause on implementation of the vaccine mandate policy while it bargains with CEMA or other unions.  Unvaccinated members will be in violation of the policy if they do not either schedule a vaccine appointment or submit a medical or religious exemption form by the end of the day, August 20, 2021.  You do not need to receive a response on the exemption, it is sufficient to have submitted the form (attached) to eodra@eod.sccgov.org

CEMA’s Response

In responding to the vaccine mandate, CEMA has met with Labor Relations, spoken in front of the Board of Supervisors, provided written response and information to both administration and the Board, and met with County executives.  In these meetings and presentations, CEMA has pushed three points.  

  1. Implementation should be paused until the County bargains impacts with CEMA in good faith for this policy.

       2. The County return CEMA members who are able to full telework and acknowledge the workplace is clearly not as safe as it was when they made the decision to return employees to the workplace in July.

3. County provide clarity on the current mandate policy and modifications as suggested by CEMA.  We’ll address below the County’s response to those questions below.  Before that, we need to state clearly that the County has refused to bargain in good faith over the vaccine mandate.  

On August 9th, CEMA met with Labor Relations for an initial meeting of two hours where we made numerous proposals and information requests related to the impacts this policy will have on CEMA members.  The County committed to a response by August 11.  By August 11 the County had not responded and CEMA reiterated some of its proposals and requests from the meeting in an email and requested a response.  On August 13, the County responded that CEMA had not put forward any proposals, information requests, or identified impacts and therefore the policy would be continuing the policy implementation without modification.  Confusingly, that e-mail was in direct reply to CEMA’s August 11 e-mail which reiterated these proposals and questions in writing.  Labor Relations has addressed several of our information requests but those listed are still outstanding.  

While the County is not obligated to accept all or even any of CEMA’s proposals in this process, the County refused to respond to even basic, obvious questions that need to be addressed prior to implementation.  For example 1) Does this policy cover booster shots?  It refers to “recommended course” for vaccination, by which institution’s definition and if their recommendation updates will this policy mandate booster shots as well?  2) Does this policy apply to employees on long term leave immediately or upon their return?  3) Do adverse effects from vaccination fall under worker’s compensation?  Previous OSHA guidance indicates that the County has assumed liability for health effects from mandated vaccination, does the County agree with that?  4) How many employees does the County expect to terminate/retire/quit as a result of the policy?  What is the County doing to identify and support areas that will see staffing impacts, rapid hiring resources, increased money for travelers/extra help/per diem/etc.?  5) Will employees who have recovered from Covid and test positive for immune response be able to submit that in lieu of vaccination?  If not, how much more effective is the vaccine with the Delta variant than inoculation from previous infection?  6) What are the criteria to qualify for a religious or medical exemption?  7) Per the policy, will unvaccinated employees (with or without exemptions) who are teleworking full time still be required to get weekly covid tests?

These are questions the County should have an answer to already given it has implemented this policy.  Labor Relations is not obligated to agree with any or all of CEMA’s proposals regarding the policy as part of bargaining over impacts.  They are required to respond to basic questions and information requests, and they have been unable to do that.  As such, and due to their violation of the recent UC Regents PERB ruling that requires bargaining over impacts prior to implementing vaccine mandate policy.  We will discuss that charge more below.  Here is the County’s response thus far on CEMA’s proposals

  1. Pause implementation

The County has refused to pause implementation of the policy.  It has agreed to continue to meet during implementation, however, that is not sufficient from CEMA’s perspective.  CEMA has requested a 2 week pause during which questions can be addressed and proposals vetted in good faith.  This pause would Santa Clara County’s implementation timeline with other nearby Counties.  It is unlikely that the Board intervenes on this question and directs administration to pause.

  1. Increase Telework 

The County is unwilling to tie telework to the vaccine mandate.  They have agreed to meet about enhancements to current telework rules and policy, however, this will be two months out and CEMA cannot say that anything will definitively result from this commitment.

  1. Address concerns/questions/proposals around the policy

Labor Relations states they will continue to meet, however, it is unlikely at this point that there is a substantive response to any of CEMA’s requests for information or proposals.  The questions from the first meeting remain largely unanswered.

Compliance with Policy

The policy is in effect and CEMA members will be obliged to comply with it.  The County has not agreed to a pause on implementation of the vaccine mandate policy while it bargains with CEMA or other unions.  Unvaccinated members will be in violation of the policy if they do not either schedule a vaccine appointment or submit a medical or religious exemption form by the end of the day.  You do not need to receive a response on the exemption, it is sufficient to have submitted the form.  Unvaccinated members will also need to comply with the weekly testing requirements.  As of right now, that applies to members teleworking full time unless the County issues clarification.

Public Employees Relations Board

CEMA is not filing a charge to prevent the County from implementing the vaccine mandate.  CEMA will not be requesting that the County be prevented from implementing a vaccine mandate.  In July, PERB held that public employers are required to bargain impacts/effects of vaccine mandate policies prior to implementation.  CEMA asked the County to meet and discuss a potential vaccine mandate policy two weeks prior to announcment of a vaccine mandate and the County refused, stating that it had no policy.  The PERB charge will demand the County pause implementation while it bargains in good faith.  However, being realistic, many unions are filing requests for expedited hearings with PERB at the moment due to vaccine mandates and there is no way of knowing when we will get a resolution.  This PERB charge is a mechanism to hold the County accountable for adhering to labor law and respect employee rights.  

CEMA is still advising all members that they need to be in compliance with the current policy or they will risk their positions with the County.  Labor Relations has made it clear that employees who are not in compliance with the policy will be disciplined and terminated.

For any members who need individual assistance or advice on their situation, please reach out to your rep.