Fire captain speaks out against city vaccination policy

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — A city fire captain who called the city’s new vaccination requirement for city workers “tyranny” is being investigated by the department’s Professional Standards Division for appearing to be on duty and speaking out against the city policy while wearing his uniform, department officials announced Aug. 23.

Noting that he would “catch total grief” from the fire department, Capt. Christian Granucci said in a video posted on the Telegram app and then shared on Twitter by journalist Jasmyne Cannick that there were hundreds of firefighters who have retained a lawyer to fight the requirement.

When will this tyranny stop. I’ll tell you when it’s going to stop. It’s going to stop right here, right now, and I’m putting my administration and my union on blast. You had the opportunity to get in front of this and you didn’t. We want to give you the opportunity to do the right thing and represent the membership,” Granucci said.

Know this. There is a large group of us — in the hundreds — and we have an attorney on retainer and he is a shark. We’ll give you the opportunity to stand up and take the fiery arrows from the adversary of tyranny and step in front of this and fight for us. But if you don’t, our plan b: a large group and it is growing by the day.”

The Los Angeles Fire Department said in a statement that it was made aware of the video.

“While we respect the individual’s right to his opinion, he is not authorized to speak on behalf of the department,” the statement said. “The individual is in uniform and appears to be on duty, thereby giving the impression that he is speaking in an official capacity. Therefore, the matter has been submitted to our Professional Standards Division for investigation, which may lead to disciplinary actions.”

The Los Angeles Fire Department’s union said in a statement that it does not support any city policy that makes vaccination a condition of employment.

Similar to the debate taking place throughout our country over vaccinations, there is passionate discussion regarding this issue in our fire stations,” said Freddy Escobar, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112. “The majority of our firefighters have voluntarily been vaccinated and more are choosing to do so each week. We continue to encourage our members to get vaccinated, but we do not support any city policies that make it a condition of employment.”

The City Council approved an ordinance Aug. 18 requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all city employees except for those who have medical or religious exemptions.

Under the ordinance, non-exempt employees must receive their first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer two-dose vaccine no later than Sept. 7, and their second dose no later than Oct. 5. Employees who choose to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine would have to be inoculated by Oct. 5.

Exemption requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and be due by Sept. 7. People will be qualified for an exemption if they have a medical condition or sincerely held religious beliefs, practices or observances that prevent them from receiving the vaccine.

Let’s let science, data and a reasoned approach prevail because we want you to live, we want your family to be well, we want the city to be healthy,” Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said before the vote.

The ordinance does not include finalized consequences for employees who do not get vaccinated and aren’t eligible for an exemption, but Vivienne Swanigan of the City Attorney’s Office told council members that the consequences are being hashed out with labor unions.

Once the city finishes bargaining with unions, a consequence laid out in the ordinance is that those who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or have not reported their vaccination status would be “ineligible to promote or transfer” until they are fully vaccinated, she said.

Councilman Gil Cedillo combated arguments about personal rights to say that people have a choice to work for the city or not work for the city, but if they choose to work for the city they have to follow the rules of the workplace.

You can’t come to work drunk, you can’t smoke in your office, you have a right to do both of those things, but you can’t do that here at work,” Cedillo said.