NEW YORK (1010 WINS/WCBS 880) -- Hundreds of municipal workers who were fired because of the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate gathered with their supporters in Queens on Tuesday to call on Mayor Eric Adams to rehire them and give them backpay.
The message of the rally, held at Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, was “reinstate and compensate,” though many would settle for just their jobs back.
“Mayor Adams, you can come out a hero today,” said Queens Council Member Vickie Paladino, who organized the rally at the Unisphere attended by hundreds of demonstrators on a sunny, chilly morning.
Addressing the crowd of former city workers, Paladino said “everyday people” like them rose to the occasion during the height of the pandemic only to get booted when they wouldn't get vaccinated.
“You guys showed up each and every day for work when it was at its worst. And how were you rewarded? You were rewarded with a pink slip,” Paladino said.
Paladino and others at the rally, including Brooklyn Council Member Inna Vernikov, said they applaud the mayor for allowing unvaccinated pro athletes and performers to work but they now want it applied universally.
“It’s not science to peel off the mandate from an athlete but not from a teacher, to exempt an athlete but not a police officer,” Vernikov said.
More than 1,400 police, fire, sanitation, and other city workers have been fired due to the vaccine mandate.
“Our bodies are sacred to ourselves and not to anyone else,” said a police officer with more than a decade on the job who didn’t want to be identified.
“As a mother of two children this is devastating,” she said. “We don’t deserve this after all our hard work and dedication to this city.”
Donna Schmidt, a nurse who organized the group New Yorkers Against Medical Mandates after she was fired from her job on Long Island, said the ongoing mandate for city workers is “a clear indication of what is going on.”
“This is a war against the common man. It’s the elites, the haves, versus the have-nots or the have-some,” she said.
Michael Kane, a teacher, was denied a religious exemption.
“He’s always said he’s followed the science, so this really doesn’t hold up, that the performers and athletes aren’t a danger, but the middle-class workers are,” Kane said of Adams.
The mayor cited the economic impact of performers and athletes when he carved out an exemption for them last week. Among the athletes now permitted to play is the Nets’ unvaccinated Kyrie Irving.
Firefighter Sophy Medina—whose husband is also an FDNY member on unpaid leave because of the mandate—pointed to the economic impact on families like hers. She said her family is dipping into savings to survive.
“We still have a future to think about and we still have out kids’ futures to think about, and that’s all being taken away,” Medina said.
Adams said Monday that he’s willing to meet with the unions but made clear he’s moving on from the issue. “There is no more questions for Eric Adams to answer—I have a city to run,” he said.
“I’m not engaging in continuing questions on the same things over and over again,” the mayor said. “The Kyrie stories, the performance stories, the athlete stories. That’s over.”