St. Paul drops appeal in vaccine mandate case

The city of St. Paul has dropped its appeal of a court ruling that it committed an unfair labor practice by unilaterally implementing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees.

The move was a victory for labor unions, including the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, which sued the city in December 2021 over its policy requiring employees be vaccinated or face disciplinary action, including termination. Unlike nearly all public sector COVID vaccine policies in Minnesota, St. Paul’s far-reaching mandate didn’t allow employees to choose regular testing in lieu of vaccination. The Teamsters Local 120 and LIUNA Local 363 filed suit along with Local 49.

The unions argued that the city engaged in an unfair labor practice by failing to negotiate the policy’s implementation. In a June 2 opinion, Ramsey County Chief Judge Leonardo Castro agreed. He permanently barred the city from implementing or enforcing the vaccination policy until the matter is settled through negotiations or arbitration.

St. Paul initially appealed Castro’s decision, but on Oct. 7 Local 49 received notice that the city was voluntarily withdrawing its appeal, which means the ruling will stand.

“We’re pleased the city of St. Paul finally came to its senses and stopped wasting taxpayer dollars on prolonged litigation,” Local 49 Business Manager Jason George said. “St. Paul’s actions violated bedrock principles of labor law, and Judge Castro made the right call. We’re pleased with the outcome of this case and will continue defending workers’ rights and making sure collective bargaining agreements are enforced.”