By JONATHAN J. COOPER and BOB CHRISTIE Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) – Unions representing Phoenix police and firefighters have joined a lawsuit filed by the Arizona attorney general to strike down federal vaccine rules affecting millions of workers.
Unions joined the case last week after the Phoenix city manager said all employees must be vaccinated by January 18 so the city can comply with rules created by the president’s administration Joe Biden.
Federal contractors are required to have their employees vaccinated, and an Occupational Health and Safety Administration rule that was suspended by a federal appeals court would require employers with more than 100 workers to regularly test anyone not vaccinated. Phoenix officials say the city has federal contracts, so it must make sure all employees are vaccinated.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who is running in an overcrowded Republican primary for the US Senate, has for weeks drawn attention to his court records opposing Biden’s vaccine requirements, which he says are a abuse of the president’s power.
This continued on Monday as Brnovich called a press conference with union leaders from the Phoenix Police and Fire Department.
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The vaccine’s tenure will drive people out of the profession and leave the remaining firefighters overworked, said Bryan Willingham, Phoenix firefighter and executive vice president of the United Phoenix Firefighters Association.
“The community cannot lose these individuals. They can’t, ”Willingham said. “We cannot survive the personnel crisis if we lose these members. “
Willingham said he does not dispute the effectiveness of the vaccine and does not believe he is contributing to false stories about the vaccine, but rather defends the firefighters he represents.
When a reporter asked Brnovich if he was vaccinated, his press secretary intervened to call the question “inappropriate”. Brnovich waved his hand at him and asked the reporter, “Have you had an STD?
“The question should be, once you authorize or cede that authority to the federal government, where does it end?” Said Brnovich.
Also on Monday, two Republican members of the Arizona Corporation Commission proposed that regulated utilities be fined up to $ 5,000 per violation if they require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Commissioners Justin Olson, who is also pushing for the GOP’s nomination to the US Senate, and Jim O’Connor want the five-member commission to consider the new rule at their next public meeting in mid-December. They fear utilities such as Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power will be constrained by Biden administration policies requiring government contractors to require their employees to take the vaccine.
“Ultimately, employees of a (regulated public service) shouldn’t have to decide between violating their beliefs and keeping their jobs,” Olson and O’Connor wrote in a letter posted on the commission’s ledger.
Arizona utilities are contracted to provide electricity to several military bases and federal facilities.
Arizona Public Service spokesperson Sherine Zaya said in an email that the state’s largest electric utility “is monitoring developments in vaccine needs.” She said COVID-19 safety protocols remain in place and the company currently does not have a vaccine mandate.
O’Connor secretly pressured utilities not to demand the vaccine earlier this year, according to the Arizona Republic. He told the newspaper in May that thousands of people who had received the vaccine had died and tens of thousands had remained as “potted plants” and had lost their ability to function. There is no evidence to back up his claims about COVID-19 vaccines.
Arizona reported 3,249 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths on Monday. Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 22,000 deaths and more than 1.2 million COVID-19 infections have been reported in the state.
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