St. Paul drops COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers

Court documents show three lawsuits involving city employees have been dismissed after the city of St. Paul dropped its COVID-19 vaccine mandate policy.

Friday, a letter from Mayor Melvin Carter to city employees stated he has decided to discontinue the vaccine requirement for city employees. He added the city is now in a position where the requirement is no longer necessary.

As previously reported, the requirement was implemented in October of 2021, and St. Paul leaders had said all city employees must be vaccinated against the virus by the end of the calendar year. That prompted lawsuits from several unions, which claimed the mandate violated their collective bargaining agreements.

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In June, a Ramsey County District Court judge agreed and invalidated the order, saying it violated fair labor law.

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In December, a judge temporarily blocked the mandate and told the city and unions to keep negotiating.

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The city says 2,757 of its 3,391 employees submitted proof of vaccination and 272 requested an exemption. In his letter, Carter went on to say he encouraged everyone who didn’t get the vaccine and booster shot already to do so.

Court documents show the city voluntary withdrew its appeals in the cases involving the International Association of Firefighters Local 21 (St. Paul Fire Department), the St. Paul Police Federation and the Tri-Council (IUOE Local 49, Teamsters Local 120 and LIUNA Local 363), and those cases have been dismissed.

Leaders of the Tri-Council union issued the following statement to KSTP-TV Tuesday in response to the policy being dropped:

“We encourage members to be vaccinated but have always believed vaccination is a personal choice. Our fight was never about vaccines – it was about St. Paul violating our right to collectively bargain over policies that impact employment. That right is a bedrock of labor law, and we had to fight St. Paul’s anti-union stance. I’m pleased that this victory has helped cement labor rights in the public sector.”

Jason George, Local 49 Business Manager

Local 49 leaders say they don’t have vaccination statistics.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has reached out to union representatives for comment and will update this article as their responses are received.