The president of the union representing Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies said Thursday the union was “blindsided” by an executive order mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all county workers.
County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis issued the executive order late Wednesday, citing rising case numbers attributed to the infectious Delta variant of COVID-19, and saying, “the need for immediate action is great.”
James Wheeler, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, said in a statement Thursday that after learning about the order on Twitter, “we are still examining the complex issues related to” the order.
“ALADS, like other stakeholders, was completely blindsided by this hastily issued order, which will affect more than 100,000 county employees,” Wheeler said. “We believe the Board of Supervisors should have collaborated and communicated with the parties who stand to be impacted by this. Instead, we were notified of this sudden shift in policy overnight via social media. We sincerely hope Hilda Solis put more thought into any issues related to this executive order than she put into the manner in which she announced it.”
According to ALADS, the union had already begun labor talks with Sheriff Alex Villanueva over a directive requiring deputies to be vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID testing. The union’s attorneys are reviewing the order, and ALADS sent a letter to Solis to notify her the union is “asserting its bargaining rights over her decision.”
Responding to the union comments, Solis said she was legally authorized to issue the order, and said employee unions will be consulted.
“Additionally, under the second directive of the executive order, the chief executive office is to engage with the county’s labor partners regarding the effects of the vaccination policy,” Solis said. “This means that CEO will meet and confer with labor partners.”
In issuing the order Wednesday, Solis cited an 18-fold increase in cases and five-fold jump in hospitalizations since June 15, when the county lifted coronavirus restrictions amid falling case rates.
Solis said there will be exemptions for medical and religious purposes — but otherwise, it will apply to all of the county’s 110,000 employees “regardless of the department they serve.” Employees will have an Oct. 1 deadline to be vaccinated.
She also said that, as board chair, she has the power, during a proclaimed local emergency, “to promulgate orders and regulations necessary to provide for the protection of life or property.”
“We are once again demonstrating to employers across the county that we are prepared to lead by example and set a standard for slowing the spread — just as we did when reinstating indoor masking, which has since been emulated by varying degrees by the CDC (the federal Centers for Disease Control), the state and localities across the country,” she said.
“We must all be prepared to come together and do our part to protect one another and get this virus under control once more. We cannot wait another day as this virus continues to upend and dramatically alter the lives of our residents. With today’s executive order, the county is prepared to lead, and I am hopeful other employers across our great county do the same.”