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Arizona AG defends Phoenix police, firefighter unions in suit against city's vaccination mandate

Republican Mark Brnovich amended earlier suit after Phoenix imposed mandate based on Biden order for contractors.

PHOENIX — For the second time in two weeks, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is asking a federal judge to toss out the Biden administration’s COVID vaccination requirement for federal workers and contractors. 

A judge tossed out the first bid, but now Brnovich has new plaintiffs and a new defendant after the city of Phoenix announced its own vaccine mandate last week for all 14,000 employees.

A day after the Phoenix announcement, Brnovich added Phoenix police and firefighter unions to his amended federal lawsuit. Brnovich also added the city of Phoenix to the long list of federal employees named as defendants.

Brnovich, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, is again seeking an injunction that would immediately suspend the mandates.

RELATED: Phoenix mandating city employees to show proof of vaccination

He made the same request two weeks ago, but it was quashed by Federal Judge Michael Liburdi. Liburdi gave Brnovich time to amend the suit. 

Then last Thursday, Phoenix City Manager Jeff Barton informed all employees via email that, based on legal advice, the city would follow the vaccine mandate for federal contractors. The city and other governmental bodies around the country hold federal contracts.

The city mandate gives employees until Jan. 18 to be fully vaccinated. The requirement applies to the Phoenix Police and Fire Departments.

Union representatives at both public-safety agencies have said they fear the departments’ low staffing levels will worsen if officers and firefighters are forced to quit because they’re not vaccinated. 

RELATED: Public resignation over Phoenix police radio draws attention to city's dwindling staff

City spokesman Daniel Wilson said Monday the city would adjust its policy based on what happens to the Biden order in the courts.

“That’s what we’ve told our employees from the get-go,” Wilson said in an interview. “If the executive order is challenged and determined not to be legal, we will change our expectations.”

Wilson said the vaccine mandate was “decided for us” by amendments to federal contracts. 

Since February, the city has offered a $75 safety award to every employee who turns in their vaccination card. That is the only source of information on the number of city employees who have received a COVID shot, Wilson said.

According to that city data, here’s how many employees have turned in a card:

  • A little over 50% of all 14,000 employees.
  • 37% of sworn and civilian police department employees
  • 33% of sworn and civilian fire department employees.

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