Mayor Peels Back COVID Mandate for Millions of NYC Private Sector Workers 

Note: See follow up statements at the bottom!

Protestors demonstrate outside the New York City Department of Health.

New York Mayor Eric Adams announced yesterday (September 20) an end to his city’s sweeping vaccine requirement on roughly 184,000 private businesses with at least one employee.

Adams stated that rescinding COVID vaccine mandates would provide more “flexibility” to parents and businesses.

“It is time to move on to the next level of fortifying our city,” Adams said. “It’s imperative to send the right message and lead by example as I’m doing today by getting my booster shot.”

While announcing this sun-setting of the nation’s strictest COVID vaccine policy mandated by former mayor Bill de Blasio, Adams implored New Yorkers to get new booster shots aimed at “highly transmissible” COVID variants.

In front of a group of journalists, Adams received his second booster shot from the city’s Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan.

A picture of NYC Mayor Adams getting his COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.

The Defender* (I) asked national grassroots organizer for Children’s Health Defense and founder of,  Michael Kane,  several questions regarding the authority for which Adams can roll back some parts of the mandate for the private sector.

“NYC is still in a state of emergency renewed every six days by Mayor Adams. That is where the authority comes from and no mechanism currently exists in NYC to stop the renewals.”

When the sweeping mandate was put into force December 27, 2021, Bill de Blasio used a commission order from the city’s health commissioner Dave Chokshi. That mandate took many city officials, businesses, union representatives and public workers by surprise.

However, when he first announced the mandate would go into effect four days after he left office, de Blasio expressed confidence that any legal challenge to the mandate would be defeated.

The City’s lead attorney backed him up. “The health commissioner has an obligation and a responsibility to protect the public health. Here, he is issuing an order that is intended to do just that in a public health emergency,” Corporation Counsel Georgia Pestana told Politico last year.

The legal qualification for this emergency law is that the mandate applied across the board rather than singling out any industry.

A picture of Bill de Blasio.

A month earlier, November 2021, the city had mandated the COVID shot for all of the New York City’s workforce of 304,000 people.

Almost 11 months after that mandate went into effect, yesterday’s announcement of a November 1 rollback has precipitated confusion.

While Adams was on the record earlier this year stating he would not be enforcing the private business mandate, Kane told The Defender* (me) the law was still in effect and had far-reaching effects.

Lack of an enforcement mechanism doesn’t mean the mandate was gone,” Kane said. “What major business in NYC would risk bucking the mandate? Once the mandate is officially repealed, some businesses may even choose to keep it.”

For the more than 800 teachers Adams fired this month for not getting the vaccine, losing incomes and medical insurance is more than just a bitter taste in their mouths. These terminations have occurred during a statewide teacher shortage.

When the mayor was asked yesterday why teachers and public sector employees still have to follow a vaccine mandate, his response was confusing.

Kane put it bluntly: “Mayor Adams answered this today and it was the worst answer I have EVER SEEN to any question ever.”

The mandate for city workers has been controversial, leading to workers being fired, lawsuits and political protests. “We’re in a steady phase of pivot and shift,” the mayor said yesterday when asked if he plans to discontinue the mandate on city workers. “We do things. We roll things out slowly. Right now, that is not on the radar for us.”

The New York Post reported Saturday those 850 teachers and aides who were fired September 5 bring the total to nearly 2,000 “deemed to have voluntarily resigned” by the Education Department

Adams may have rolled back some of de Blasio’s COVID restrictions, but he’s kept the public worker and school employee vaccine proof mandate.

 To date, New York City has fired more than 2,600 municipal workers in total for not getting a COVID shot, according to the New York Post’s findings.

“I don’t think anything dealing with COVID makes sense, and there’s no logical pathway of [what] one can do,” Adams said yesterday at the press conference. “You make the decisions based on how to keep our city safe, how to keep our employees operating.”

For many of the 24,000 members of the NYPD, last year’s mandates set off protests and lawsuits by police. Yesterday’s announcement for some is “irrational pseudoscience.”

“This announcement is more proof that the vaccine mandate for New York City police officers is arbitrary, capricious and fundamentally irrational,” said Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch. “Now that the city has abandoned any pretense of a public health justification for vaccine mandates, we expect it to settle our pending lawsuits and reinstate with back pay our members who unjustly lost their jobs.”

It was March 24 when Adams rolled back the vaccine mandate for athletes, but not teachers and municipal workers, including cops and firefighters.

United Federation of Teachers said in a statement that lifting the vaccine mandate for performers and athletes was a double standard.

“The city should not create exceptions to its vaccination requirements without compelling reason,” the UFT statement read. “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.”

Rachelle Garcia, a 15-year veteran teacher in New York City, spoke to Fox Friends First yesterday about her and her family’s struggle after she was fired earlier this month. She made three religious exemptions, but all were denied.

After putting in all the in-person teaching during the pandemic and then receiving a pink slip, Garcia explained: “We went from heroes to zeroes.”

The Defender* (I) talked at length with Kane, who had been a New York teacher 15 years before “voluntarily resigning” last year because he refused to be vaccinated. 

“It’s a failed public health policy.” Kane said he saw a sea change in attitudes toward fired teachers and first responders at the Labor Day rally earlier this month. “My wife and I marched with New York Workers for Choice through 47th Avenue where all the teachers were,  and we were cheered on, caused a real ruckus.”

A year ago, Kane said, the atmosphere was much different when fellow teachers did not support his anti-mandate stance. He cited a recent Emerson college poll that found 52 percent of New Yorkers were in favor of rehiring the fired teachers, compared to 30 percent against.

Kane says good teachers and public servants no longer serve the city because of the mandate. “I had a Dreamers Alliance Club for five years. I took the kids to businesses, to Albany. Now they have nothing.”

Many teachers like Kane have said the mandate got rid of a lot of dedicated, intelligent educators. 

But the fight is still on. “We’re going to go back to City Hall this week and demand this policy ends.” Kane is hoping a few hundred fired workers will be there on the steps of City Hall lobbying to get their jobs back. 


Note: This was an assignment by Robert F. Kennedy’s Children’s Health Defense “news aggregator,” The Defender. I answered a solicitation to apply for one of two “reporter” jobs there. Got interviewed September 7.  Yeah, funny stuff, applying at age 65. The Zoom interview with two editors went well, and then a a week later I was assigned a piece, as a trial-test.

They gave me the actual story to cover, again, a day late and a dollar short, but I got a hold of three sources for original quotations. The idea was to follow up with a story already covered heavily in the media and through environmental groups, and try to add something new.

I was told in the Zoom interview if The Defender published the trial piece, I would be paid (not sure what that rate was). Read it, and many have praised the piece.

Here it is, reprinted at DV, “Shell’s $6 Billion ‘Cracker’ Plant Part of ‘Ponzi Scheme for Natural Gas’, Critic Says” and then here, at the Defender, September 20, 2022.

Ahh, the cracker story turned out to be bigger and longer than they had assigned. And, the three females looking at the copy, well, they were using this piece as a trial. The main editor said it made sense that I was not spot on with their AP style; i.e., surface level stuff.

But, then, another test, one more test, for the $33 an hour gig. I was feeling a bit, well, used, and not confident this outfit was all up and up. But I plowed on with short notice to do a recap of the above New York City mayoral decision to lift the mandate story.

Yeah, I contacted four places in New York for comments, both by phone and email. Luckily, fired teacher Michael Kane, who just started at CHD, was available.

We talked for almost an hour this morning, and I submitted the story that you just read above. He told me it was fantastic.

Yep, that was it.

However, I received the following email after talking with Michael Kane and getting some confidence-building:

Hi Paul. I enjoyed meeting you and appreciate your time, but the editor and I have decided you’re not the right fit for our next reporter.

I wish you the best. S

Now, a funny thing happened on the way to the Defender. There was a verbal discussion during the interview stage how I’d get paid for the story if they ran it. They did publish it, and it was long one. Alas, though, this is Gig economy, and the collective bargaining ain’t at a thing with nonprofits like Children’s Health Defense, usually writers get something for things published. In the old days, I got “kill fees” from magazines who assigned something and failed to publish it.

No word back from them about getting some recompense. Typical, in my opinion.

Also, so it goes, in my opinion, with this new normal abnormal, of gig workers, of aggregator news (sic) sites, and a world where curt and empty words, like those above, go with the territory. Unprofessional, but I was the one being judged!

Luckily, my journalism experience over five decades has mostly been me going out and doing original work, not looking at sources that already covered a breaking news item in order to paraphrase and recap it in my own words. Sure, a ton of press releases and leads on stories from sources came my way, but the bottom line was/is I was on the spot, doing original investigation and coverage, of my own accord, usually under the auspices of my own story generation, or sometimes I pursued stories hashed out with editors that then got me deep into the weeds, sometimes.

Now, Michael Kane and I talked at length early this AM Pacific time, since he’s in NYC. I thought the piece which I had almost completed would be apropos for The Defender. It never got looked at, essentially, never edited.

Kane’s the lead-creator of Teachers for Choice. He has been teaching for 15 years, and had been in special education. He felt he was meant to teach after a few years of getting his feet wet.

He told me he was super active in the union, American Federation of Teachers, and was even a union delegate and ended up in the state Capital lobbying and presenting and rallying around teachers and education issues.

When the mandate came down for NYC educators, K12, he wanted to opt out. He ended up not signing the waiver that would have allowed him to stay home, get pay, lose his medical benefits, for a year, with the caveat of not suing the school/education district.

His wife and Michael had just purchased a home, and he told me both of them (she’s a teacher, I believe) had lost their jobs.

The fired teachers and public employees have a lawsuit still pending for an October court date with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. He told me that he believes Adams reversal of the private employers mandate (it is sun-setting November 1, but still, it’s optional to opt out of making employees have vaccines for COVID) has set in motion “energy” around the firing of teachers, many of whom have dedicated like Michael a decade or more developing both as educators and community and student inspirations.

He told me he is progressive, and the irony is he is supporting the Republican candidate for New York governor. “I’ve never voted Republican.”

These alliances and allegiances are what also adds to the new abnormal. He also pointed out that de Blasio pushed MMR shots for adults in Brooklyn when a measles cluster broke out.

“Adams is much more transactional than de Blasio was. The Mets owner Cohen gave Adams money for his campaign, and so the Mayor carved out a vax mandate exception for athletes.”

Kane told me that “well over fifty percent of the Black Community didn’t get the COVID vaccination.” Lots of skepticism on medical overlords telling African Americans what to do with their bodies, medically and drug wise.

We talked about how mayors and governors and the CDC and president expect educators to be compliant. He also said what he saw during the first year of the COVID teaching arena was bizarre.

“In September 2021 I was still at my job. I stood back and it looked like the kids and teachers were robots.”

He said they had to wear face masks and some both masks and shields. All teachers had Chrome books, and the kids had laptops. The teachers had mics set up under their masks to amplify their muffled voices. Students had to DM teachers and aides when they had a question or problem.

“It was frightening.”

Yep, we agreed on how the downfall of education occurred across the world when social media came into play. We talked about John Taylor Gatto, and really how education is now not about helping the kids one on one, or really about creating creative and independent thinkers.

Ahh, so-called modern scientific schooling is actually a perverse experiment of morphing children in compliants, or hateful of learn. Here’s what Gatto calls the “seven lessons of school teaching.” These are lessons of mass forced schooling:

It confuses the students. It presents an incoherent ensemble of information that the child needs to memorize to stay in school. Apart from the tests and trials, this programming is similar to the television; it fills almost all the “free” time of children. One sees and hears something, only to forget it again.

It teaches them to accept their class affiliation.

It makes them indifferent.

It makes them emotionally dependent.

It makes them intellectually dependent.

It teaches them a kind of self-confidence that requires constant confirmation by experts (provisional self-esteem).

It makes it clear to them that they cannot hide, because they are always supervised.

As Michelle Alexander points out, these are children “who have a parent or loved one, a relative, who has either spent time behind bars or who has acquired a criminal record and thus is part of the under-caste – the group of people who can be legally discriminated against for the rest of their lives.”  She writes:

. . . For these children, their life chances are greatly diminished. They are more likely to be raised in severe poverty; their parents are unlikely to be able to find work or housing and are often ineligible even for food stamps. For children, the era of mass incarceration has meant a tremendous amount of family separation, broken homes, poverty, and a far, far greater level of hopelessness as they see so many of their loved ones cycling in and out of prison. Children who have incarcerated parents are far more likely themselves to be incarcerated. (source)

It is now the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the canceled, the disenfranchised, the un-woke, the misbegotten, et al. Here, Henry Giroux:

Education as a democratic project is utopian in its goal of expanding and deepening the ideological and material conditions that make a democracy possible. Teachers need to be able to work together, collaborate, work with the community, and engage in research that informs their teaching. In this instance, critical pedagogy refuses the atomizing structure of teaching that informs traditional and market-driven notions of pedagogy. Moreover, critical pedagogy should provide students with the knowledge, modes of literacy, skills, critique, social responsibility, and civic courage needed to enable them to be engaged critical citizens willing to fight for a sustainable and just society.

When Schools Become Dead Zones of the Imagination: A Critical Pedagogy Manifesto
**Final note! Nah, The Defender has not contacted me after I politely asked about the recompense. This is the new new abnormal: is it a skanky world out there now in U$A? Are people in 2022 that unprofessional, that vapid, and that deaf to human compassion? As of September 22, no word on the pay. Lovely!**

**Second Final Note!** You don’t make money as a writer, or at least 95 percent of most writers do not make money! Aggregators like The Defender use articles from Commondreams, Yale Environment 360, Environmental Working Group, Center for Biological Diversity, and all the other mainstream ones, and I know they don’t pay for the creative commons use, and the authors of those pieces, if listed, do not get pennies from heaven. So, in reality, the piece that was up two days ago on the cracker plant should have landed me at least $150. I used to get $400 for a column I wrote. Prices for word count (or pay) have gone DOWN, and in some cases, the creepy people think that having a digital clipping of a piece of writing is reward enough. So much for solidarity amongst workers! Usury appears everywhere, and sometimes it’s just using people’s time for free. That cracker article I put in eight hours, man! Even flipping burgers at $16 an hour would be an eight-hour day at $128.

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.