Newark city workers now have a choice: Get vaccinated, or get fired.

A state appellate court has upheld Mayor Ras Baraka's executive order, and decided the issue does not have to be negotiated with city unions.

In August, Baraka issued one of the toughest vaccine mandates in the state for municipal workers. It went beyond Governor Phil Murphy's executive order by requiring proof of vaccination without the option of regular COVID testing. Baraka did allow for religious and medical exemptions.

Police and fire unions challenged the order, claiming the mandate should be part of the collective bargaining process. The unions staged a protest outside City Hall with support from other first responders around the state.

Baraka has insisted he imposed the mandate to save lives. The Appellate Court agreed, writing the city had the right to protect the public and citing what they called "the scientifically undisputed risk of spreading this deadly virus."

The judges also took issue with the unions' position that the mandate should be negotiated as part of their contract, saying to do so "would undercut the effectiveness of the mandate."

Sometimes the protection of the many requires an individual, especially a public servant, to act for the public good. The Unions have not cited any facts that would support the purported rights of what appears to be a minority of City employees to pose a risk to coworkers and City residents. - NJ Appellate Court

Union officials said they were "disappointed" with the ruling, but did not indicate what they would do next.

The matter is likely to end up back before PERC, and could then be headed to another court. However, for now, the Newark vaccination mandate will stand, and employees have 30 days to prove vaccination status or face disciplinary action and/or termination.

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