An overwhelming majority of unionized city employees don’t mind the mandate.
City employees in Tampa don’t mind vaccination requirements, according to results from a series of surveys the city provided Monday.
Members from three employee unions, representing 80% of the city’s rank and file staff, voted overwhelmingly to support Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s order requiring vaccinations for city employees.
A full 65% of Police Benevolent Association members surveyed said they backed the policy, which requires all city employees, regardless of whether they are a union member, to get vaccinated by Sept. 30, prove they have antibodies or wear an N-95 mask on the job and submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.
An even larger share of police managers, 83%, also support the mandate.
Likewise, 77% of members of Tampa Fire Fighters Local 754 and 84% of general city employees represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1464 backed the mandate.
Castor’s mandate is largely unique in Florida. For example, the city of Orlando imposed a vaccine mandate, but exempted union members. Disney, one of the state’s largest private employers, has also shied away from mandating vaccines among union members.
The results come as Castor has, perhaps surprisingly, avoided criticism directly from Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has threatened to fine local governments $5,000 per employee affected by a vaccine mandate, despite being one of the first mayors in the state to pursue bold vaccine requirements.
“Our goal is simple: to protect our employees and our community, while maintaining the high level of service that our residents expect,” Castor said. “In an effort to balance health and safety, we provided employees options that include weekly testing instead of vaccinations, and we worked in collaboration with our union leaders to get the facts out to all employees and dispel false rumors.”
Castor has found success where other local leaders have struggled by downplaying ideological divisions among employees. She has also largely dismissed threats of fines that could sway employee opinion.
Instead, the former Tampa Police Chief worked closely with union leaders to highlight various options under her policy, including a test-out option and the ability to decline a vaccine if natural antibodies are present, and encourage more vaccinations.
Castor said she was proud of her city employees for stepping up.
While anti-vaccine mandate protesters have descended on Tampa city buildings to protest Castor’s order, likening Castor to Adolf Hitler over the policy, the survey shows she does have support among those affected.
DeSantis recently held a press conference in Gainesville announcing proposed fines against local governments with employee vaccine mandates. He hasn’t named specific targets, but Gainesville’s policy differs from Castor’s in that it does not include options to side-step the mandate.
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