Frequently Asked Questions
The health and safety of our members, staff, and communities is our top priority. As an organization, we have a fiduciary responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for members and staff and minimize the spread of COVID-19 at CSEA facilities, meetings, trainings, and events. To maximize in-person meeting attendance, protect CSEA members, and protect the Association from enormous liability, CSEA needs those members attending in-person events indoors over the next several months to feel safe (and be safe) from catching COVID from others in attendance. Our members have expressed their desire to return to in-person events and training. For these reasons, beginning October 1, 2021, CSEA will require proof of vaccination in order to attend its in-person indoor meetings. This meeting attendance requirement applies only to events at the level of Regional Presidents Meetings (RPMs) and above, such as CSEA Board of Directors meetings.
CSEA staff are fully vaccinated, including any newly hired staff. On August 11, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom and the state public health officials announced a public health order that all K-12 school employees in California must either be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 tests. The testing option is scheduled to expire in 2023. Rather than wait, dozens of districts have mandated staff get vaccinated now. Despite setbacks in court to a broad federal mandate, the Biden Administration is still mandating vaccination for federal contractors, healthcare institutions and Head Start.
Our relationship with our members is not an employer-employee relationship (where employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation of religion and disabilities), nor are we a public accommodation covered by the ADA and similar state laws. Instead, we are a private association exempt from such laws. Therefore, we are not legally required to do so at state CSEA events.
We are only covered by ADA and similar laws when we provide training required for an occupation (i.e., Para Conference) or handle grievances for particular individuals with disabilities or religious objections to vaccination. In these unusual situations, we will likely accommodate disabilities and religious objections merely by allowing virtual attendance. This allows us to ensure that we keep our meetings safe from the significant possibility that unvaccinated members who are infected but asymptomatic infect others in attendance.
CSEA’s Constitution allows the Association President to determine that an item should be addressed in executive session when there is a threat of harm to CSEA from handling the issue otherwise.
CSEA’s Constitution allows any Board Member to move during the executive session to challenge this determination (Art. VI, sec. 5). The Board also frequently takes up matters in executive sessions which are time-sensitive but arise too late to be put on the open session agenda.
CSEA learned shortly before its September Board meeting that member leaders had begun expressing their concern about the safety of attending upcoming events in-person. There was not enough time to put this issue onto the Board’s posted agenda for the open session, prepared two weeks before the meeting.
Super Session is one of CSEA’s most important events for our member leaders, many of whom expressed concern about attending an event with nonvaccinated members, which would dramatically impact attendance and the event’s success.
CSEA leaders needed time to investigate the legality and administrative feasibility of mandating vaccination and whether it could recognize religious and disability exceptions. Taking the matter up at the October open session would have been too late to provide members with enough notice of the vaccine requirement to attend Super Session and the October Board meeting. As noted above, the CSEA Constitution allows any Board Member uncomfortable with an issue being considered in executive session to make a motion to consider it instead in open session, and no Board Member exercised their right to do so here.
Vaccine mandates are not new and have been used at various times during our nation’s history. Smallpox began to roll through the ranks of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and set back the war effort. George Washington, in 1777, launched a mass inoculation campaign that reduced smallpox mortality to 2%.
In the 1920s, California’s established its childhood vaccine mandate, which requires inoculation of students for smallpox before entering school. Currently, K-12 students receive vaccination against nine infectious diseases; except smallpox which has been eradicated in the U.S.
Vaccines go beyond simply protecting those who have been inoculated. They help prevent outbreaks and support community-wide immunity, which ultimately slows the spread of disease across all age groups.
Returning to in-person events will require members to be vaccinated to protect ourselves, our families, our union sisters, and brothers, and prevent the spread of COVID.