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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

CSEA return to in-person events

Updated 10/1/21

Q:  Is CSEA holding events and training in person?
A:   Yes! We are excited to return to in-person meetings and events sponsored by the state Association, such as CSEA Board of Directors meetings and Super Session.

 

Q:  What does CSEA require to attend meetings in-person, and why?

A:   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. In addition, U.S. President Joseph Biden issued a directive on September 9, 2021, to the federal Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration calling for businesses with more than 100 employees to require vaccinations against COVID-19.  We can expect Cal/OSHA and the federal government to expand such requirements soon, so we want our members to plan ahead for the CSEA events they wish to attend weeks and months from now.

Q:  Does CSEA’s meeting attendance requirements apply to chapter and council meetings? 

A:  No, but all CSEA chapters and councils must, at a minimum, comply with CDPH and County requirements. CSEA continues to urge chapters to allow virtual participation in such meetings as many members will prefer, due to health concerns, to keep participating virtually rather than show up in person. Some prospective attendees still may not have had an opportunity to become fully vaccinated. CSEA also strongly encourages chapters and councils to ensure that those attending are either vaccinated or recently tested with a reliable test. CSEA’s Legal Department will not defend those chapters who get sued because they held an in-person meeting without requiring vaccination, which led to someone getting ill.  CSEA cannot purchase insurance to protect against this liability. CSEA and its chapters and councils lack the legal immunities which public agencies enjoy from getting sued for negligence in allowing the spread of COVID.  

 

Q:  How will CSEA obtain proof of vaccination?

A:  As soon as you can in advance of a meeting you plan to attend, email a copy of your vaccine card to the CSEA Member Benefits Department at vaxcard@csea.com. Member Benefits will create a confidential record under your name, so you will not need to resubmit proof every time you attend a CSEA event. If you do not submit a copy of your card in advance, you can also show proof of vaccination at the door: a photo of a vaccine card is sufficient (you do not need to bring the original). Remember that one is not “fully vaccinated” until two weeks after the final shot.

Q:  Why isn’t CSEA offering members the option of testing instead of vaccination?  

A:  Many CSEA events involve hundreds of attendees. Assessing the quality and timeliness of tests results would require a significant amount of CSEA administrative resources. Many members who attend events are likely to travel through airports, ride on airplanes, and stay in hotels where they could be exposed to the virus after negative test results, which would create significant risk for those who are unvaccinated. 

Q:  Will CSEA allow attendance by those with religious or disability reasons for not being vaccinated?  

A:  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.
 

Q:  Will CSEA provide a virtual option for those who do not attend in-person?

A:  Our goal is to allow as many CSEA members as possible to participate in our events, and we will decide for each event and training if a virtual option is practicable and if the venue for the meeting, such as a hotel or other event space, will permit it. We cannot guarantee that all attendees in a virtual meeting will have full participation, but we will do our best to allow those virtual attendees to be present. 

Q:  Why did the CSEA board take up the issue of a vaccine mandate in executive session rather than in open session?   

A:  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.
 

Q:  What is the history of vaccine requirements?  

A:  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.

Related Resources:
COVID-19 FAQs