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Black City Employee Group Calls San Francisco Vaccination Mandate 'Insensitive, Negligent'

Katherine Fung

Jun 25, 2021

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A black city employee group in San Fransisco is pushing back on the city's new vaccination mandate, calling it "insensitive and negligent" for city officials to ask workers to choose between employment and vaccines.

The Black Employee Alliance and Coalition Against Anti-Blackness, which represents more than 400 Black employees in the city, says the mandate puts city workers of color in an unfair position by requiring them to use a healthcare system that some of them distrust.

"Being Black, an African American, in a culture that mistreats us all the time, healthcare is no exception as well as the history of racism this country has," Dante King, co-founder of the group, told KRON. "It's insensitive and negligent for city leadership to not understand how this would land on its Black and nonwhite employees."

On Thursday, the workers' group sent an email to Mayor London Breed and other city supervisors to express their concern shortly after the announcement was made.

The city of San Fransisco became the first in California to require thousands of workers to get vaccinated after declaring that city workers would have to prove their vaccine status to avoid termination, once the COVID-19 vaccines are fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Currently, the vaccine is only authorized for emergency use authorization but is strongly recommended. According to the policy, once the vaccines are approved, city employees will have 10 weeks to get vaccinated.

Starting Monday, employees will have 30 days to prove their current vaccination status with the city. City officials say vaccination status will help employers allow employees to work unmasked again.

There will be accommodations for medical and religious reasons.

"About this variant and what this is going to mean not only for hospitalizations but for people who contract COVID," Breed told KNTV. "It's not gone but folks who have the vaccine are going to be more protected than those who don't. I had to think about our workforce. I had to think about the public."

While King is fully vaccinated, he says not all members of his group are and many have raised concerns over the mandate.

"Again you're dealing with a group of people who are already disproportionately disadvantaged in this system and now you're going to threaten termination and we deal with the legacy and ongoing perpetuation of anti-Black racism and racial bias," he said.

King said advocates may seek legal action on the grounds that the new policy could disproportionally impact African American city employees.

The Black and African American Affinity Group at the San Fransisco Municipal Transportation Agency has also spoken out against Breed's mandate.

"People feel like they have to choose between their job and the vaccination," Kathy Broussard, the group's leader, said in a Thursday statement.

"Most Blacks and African Americans are apprehensive based on a lot of information that's been out there regarding the side effects, in addition to just being fearful," she continued. "While I understand the safety of vaccinations, I also believe people should have the right to choose what vaccinations or medical treatment they wish to receive."

King is still awaiting a response from the city.

Newsweek reached out to Breed's office for comment but did not hear back before publication.

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