After calling for a meeting with NYC Mayor Eric Adams to discuss what they felt is a contradiction in the city's vaccine mandate, firefighters are now revamping their effort to fight the COVID policy — hoping to get the exemption to apply to them.
"We never agreed that our members could be fired," Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro said a press conference on Monday.
The union said that is exactly what is about to claim the job of a hero, who the department honored with a medal for saving a child's life just 18 months ago.
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"My wife got fired, and now I'm getting fired," said Jairo Sosa, who is set to lose his job this week after refusing to get vaccinated for religious reasons. His wife, a social worker, also lost her job.
"I have two little girls, and one on the way. All I ask the mayor is, let us work," he said.
Ansbro said the union is asking New York City Mayor Eric Adams: "Save his job."
Union have demanded a meeting with Adams in days since he doubled down on his controversial decision to lift the city's vaccine mandate for professional athletes and performers, but not city workers.
The heads of two firefighter unions delivered a request of the mayor Saturday to sit down within a week's time to discuss the city's vaccine mandate. Presidents of the Firefighters Association and FDNY-Fire Officers Association placed an "emergency" call hoping Adams would reconsider his new order and expand the mandate lift to all city employees.
Adams on Monday appeared open to hearing what the firefighters have to say, commenting that "everyone knows me. I'll meet with everyone."
Currently, somewhere between 400 and 500 firefighters remain unvaccinated and are at risk of losing their jobs with the city, Ansbro estimated. Each week, anywhere from 5 to 10 firefighters receive an ultimatum to get a COVID-19 vaccine or step down, he said.
"When [Adams] was candidate mayor, or mayor-elect, he told de Blasio to sit down with the unions. Now it's his turn to follow through on what Bill de Blasio did," Ansbro said during a virtual press conference over the weekend. "Mayor Adams, please sit down with us."
According to the union presidents, approximately 15 firefighters have been terminated since the implementation of the mandate, while many more opted for retirement.
"As the mayor says, the science changes. If you're gonna force people to get vaccinated because the science changes, you also have to acknowledge that you're allowing people to have exceptions because the science changes and it's no longer necessary. So, one rule for all," Ansbro said.
The executive order that exempts New York City-based professional athletes and performers from the private sector COVID vaccine mandate meant that Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who has been outspoken about his decision to not get vaccinated, was able to take the floor in at the Barclays Center on Sunday.
After the game, Irving told reporters that "now we can move on. Everybody can move on."
It seems that Adams wants to take the same approach to the athlete exemption, as he was not happy on Monday that more questions centered on the decision to carve out sports starts and other performers.
"I answered every question on this topic. No more questions for Eric Adams to answer," the mayor said. "I have a city to run, not a sports team."
Others are not quite moving on since the reinstatement of Irving renewed questions about the 1,428 municipal workers removed from the city payroll for failure to get vaccinated — including 40 people from the Sanitation Department, 36 in the NYPD, and 25 in the FDNY. Adams has said he has no plans as of now to rehire them.
The mayor has reiterated his "peel-back-the-layers" approach to COVID restrictions, citing the latest announcement as another layer in the process.
"Everything is going to be in layers. I'm going to roll it out when my medical team tells me," Adams said Monday. That could mean firefighters would eventually be able to work without getting the vaccine, but there has been no indication when that could happen.
The mayor has previously said he had wanted to change the rule when he first took office but his medical team advised against it, given skyrocketing omicron infections across the country.
Facing full-court pressure, Adams on Friday emphasized that he was simply closing a loophole from the last administration, which prevented hometown athletes from playing home games if they weren't vaccinated — but allowed unvaccinated visiting players to still participate.
"You may consider this a double standard. I consider it an analysis that I made and I'm comfortable with my decision," Adams said at a press conference.
News of Adams' intentions drew swift backlash, with many calling it unfair that city workers, many of whom worked through the pandemic when there was no vaccine available, remain suspended without pay for refusing the doses while millionaire performers get a pass.
The city's teachers union told NBC New York that "If the rules are going to be suspended, particularly for people with influence, then the UFT and other city unions are ready to discuss how exceptions could be applied to city workers."
Adams declared his a "tough" decision was done as one of economic necessity and in the best interest of New York's recovery from the pandemic. Adams has seemed prepared for the controversy that began to brew last Wednesday.
He also has said the change only applies to a "small number" of people, since most have complied with the vaccine mandate. He didn't say how many -- and he sought to make it clear he believes vaccination is the right course for everyone, including Irving.
The amended exemption to the private sector vaccine mandate was effective immediately. In addition to Irving being allowed to play this weekend, the change allows any unvaccinated Met to take the home field on Opening Day later this week. The Yankees will be able to do the same after their away series to open the season.