The resignations have hurt already short-staffed bussing companies and have led to the city offering families $1,000 to take Uber, Lyft, or other ride-sharing services. Students with disabilities have been particularly hard-hit, with almost 1,000 of them left trying to find transportation to and from schools.
Mayor Lightfoot’s administration is also in talks with Uber and Lyft to provide regular transportation for students.
Chicago Public School classes started on August 30, but 10 percent of bus drivers have now left their jobs, leaving the district scrambling. The schools have turned to ride-sharing companies, though those services do not require drivers to be vaccinated.
“About 2,100 students, including 990 in special education, were given no more than two days’ notice that their bus route no longer existed,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported. “District officials said they received word Friday from the private companies with which they contract for bus services that 73 drivers had resigned because they refused to abide by CPS’ vaccine mandate, which requires all employees and contractors to get shots by Oct. 15.”
The district already faced a shortage of more than 400 drivers, according to the Sun-Times.
Mayor Lightfoot downplayed CPS’ responsibility for the shortage. “We have a contract with those companies. We had an expectation that they were going to fulfill their contract,” Lightfoot said. “This is not on CPS. And I want that to be very clear.”
The uncertain transportation situation has caused particular concerns for parents of students with disabilities who may have difficulties finding ride-sharing options every day due to physical or mental limitations.
“He did really good, but like I said, he is a special needs student,” Cincerlyn Lewis told CBS 2 about her son’s Lyft ride home after school. “So I’m always worried if he gets the wrong driver; if things don’t go as planned, it could be dangerous.”
Last week, Lightfoot said the jab requirement would help the city “recover from this devastating pandemic.”
“Getting vaccinated has been proven to be the best way to achieve that and make it possible to recover from this devastating pandemic,” a press release from the mayor said. “And so, we have decided to join other municipalities and government agencies across the nation, including the U.S. military, who are making this decision to protect the people who are keeping our cities and country moving. We have also been in close communication with our partners in the labor movement to create a vaccination policy that is workable, fair and effective.”
The shortage of bus drivers could be an early warning sign of other city staffing problems.
The Chicago Teachers Union, which represents teachers and staff, has told its members not to report their vaccination status to Chicago Public Schools.
Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, which also represents city paramedics, have come out against the vaccine mandate, according to Fox 32.
The president of the Fraternal Order of Police walked back comments he made comparing the vaccine mandate to Nazi Germany, but reiterated the union’s opposition to the requirement.
“This vaccine has no studies for long-term side effects or consequences. None,” John Catanzara said.
The Chicago Federation of Labor, which represents some city workers and is an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) said it opposes the mandate.
“We believe in the benefits of vaccination to help protect workers and residents, but we do not believe punitive mandates are the right path to significantly increase vaccine uptake,” CFL President Bob Reiter said. “In fact, we believe this announcement may harden opposition to the vaccine instead of protecting the workers who have sacrificed so much over the past 18 months.”
Other employers nation-wide have announced staffing shortages after implementing vaccine mandates. Houston Methodist Hospital, which won a federal lawsuit to force all employees to get jabbed, forced out 150 employees. The hospital has experienced a “severe shortage of medical personnel” according to the Foundation for Economic Education.