Diane Pagen: The NYC COVID Vaccine Mandate Creates More Harm Than It’s Worth

The media publishes every day how COVID has decimated businesses, culture, the arts, and financial stability. There is so much more.
When the City issued the COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate without any mention of medical or religious exemptions, many lawsuits were filed. Our Constitution protects anyone from discrimination, but our government believes that there is a compelling government interest in trampling individual rights for the greater public good. Balancing those rights against individual liberties is a political act.On or about mid-February almost 914 NYC Department of Education employees were fired for requesting and being denied religious or medical exemptions or accommodations from getting the vaccine, and the Department also denied unemployment and medical benefits, couching this in absurd generalities such as an “undue burden“, and put a “Problem code” (see also Declaration of Betsy Combier and make sure you scroll to the Exhibit A, the email sent by Eric Amato) on everyone’s personnel file. Then the DOE pushed for the public to believe none of their actions were due to misconduct, so that no one would get a fair due process hearing.

Their arguments are such bulloney.

Almost no one is talking about the harm these terminations did to the kids who are the students in the classrooms where currently there are no teachers or no certified staff to teach them anything.

Brilliant writer Diane Pagen is talking about this, and I am posting her timeless and important Opinion piece published in the NY POST in February because she has spoken out about the abundance of seen and unseen harm the actions of a select few have caused.

The NYC Department of Education puts children last. Stay away.

PS: Update on Eric Amato- he has resigned from the NYC Department of Education

Betsy Combier

I lost my NYC school job to the vaccine mandate — and all New Yorkers are losing too

By Diane Pagen, NY POST, February 16, 2022

I’m one of the city employees who was fired this week when the vaccine mandate former Mayor Bill de Blasio instituted took full effect.

You’ve heard about us for months. While we’ve been on unpaid leave, we’ve been called “selfish” and “unsafe.” De Blasio suggested on TV that a few months without a paycheck would bring us to our senses, as if we had none. Gov. Kathy Hochul took a swipe at us when she told a Brooklyn congregation that vaccinated people are “the smart ones.”

We Department of Education workers have been particularly targeted by politicians and the press, who claim we “don’t care about the kids” — though they’ve been quieter since we unvaccinated educators were forced out of schools and COVID cases still went up 1,000% as Omicron hit.

You’ve been told that the firings — 1,430 this week, with 9,000 more city workers still seeking exemptions — only hurt those being sacked. That’s not true. I ask that rather than forget about us as quickly as politicians would like you to, you take some time to think about what you’re losing.

  • You’ve lost tax revenue, and sooner or later you’ll see that loss in your community. I used to pay about $30,000 a year in taxes. When you see trash in the street, a dirty subway, reduced library hours or reduced summer jobs for our youth, you’ll see the decision to fire us affects others, too.
  • You’re paying for additions to the food-stamp rolls. Now that I have no income, I get $250 a month. When employed and making around $90,000, I would regularly buy groceries for people who ran short. I can no longer dedicate resources to the needy.
  • You’ve lost a public-school social worker. In August 2021, the former chancellor preened in the press when public schools hired 500 new sorely needed social workers to help our kids. Yet last year, schools lost many when the unvaccinated were forced onto unpaid leave. The Brooklyn school where I worked until October has been down one psychologist and one social worker — me — for months. The kids pay. The kids with special needs pay more.
  • You’ve got more harried staff who remain. The staff shortages are unfair to those still working. My social-media feeds are full of stories from overwhelmed school staff — especially the new and inexperienced, whose schools simply don’t have enough workers with the unvaccinated gone. These are the adults your children are counting on.
  • You’ve lost a productive member of your city whose days used to be spent helping kids. My time looks a lot different since I was forced out of my job. During a typical recent week, I spent time appealing a rejected unemployment claim (three hours), filling out and faxing documents for my food-stamp application (five hours), waiting on hold for the state Department of Labor (one hour, 40 minutes), reading legal documents and making phone calls and writing letters to a host of politicians and “community leaders” who never respond. I am also prone to all the normal reactions to involuntary unemployment that you would expect — sadness, anxiety, frustration, all of which affect my neighbors and my family if they catch me on one of those days.
  • You’ve lost leverage as a worker, whether public or private. By destroying our economic lives in the public eye, city administrators are making an example of workers who object to an arbitrary demand and sending a message to the rest of the workforce. The city is showing it’s willing to break thousands of labor contracts, too.
  • You’ve lost New Yorkers. Many of us, gobsmacked by the months of defamation of character and the financial coercion, have left or are making plans to leave shortly. I know a dozen dedicated teachers with 20 years of experience who will no longer be around to teach your children, spend their wages in our economy and generally help make New York the amazing place it was.

I was a tenured employee with six years dedicated to city schools. But I couldn’t keep my job simply by doing a good job. Instead, I faced a months-long intimidation campaign. And I finally lost my position because I wouldn’t get a medical treatment I don’t think is right for me. New Yorkers, think about what you’ve lost here, too.

Diane Pagen, LMSW, was a school social worker for the New York City Department of Education.

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