Chicago businessman donates $50K to first responders who lost pay for not reporting vaccine status

Chicago businessman Dr. Willie Wilson donated $50,000 on Wednesday to support the police officers and firefighters who lost pay for not reporting their COVID-19 vaccine status.

"This guy just never stops surprising me," said John Catanzara. "From the bottom of my heart, on behalf of our members, thank you very much."

While holding a news conference Wednesday to present the check for $50,000, Dr. Wilson also had a surprise for those who showed up to the event.

"I did bring some extra dollars for those who showed up today," said Dr. Wilson. "I did bring an extra $21,000"

Stephanie, a 14-year veteran with the Chicago Police Department, is currently in a no-pay status.

"I was one of the very first officers called over to headquarters, and we went through a gruesome process of three different stages, of hours of just standing there, and having our credentials and pretty much our livelihoods taken away from us," said Stephanie. 

As of Nov. 22, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said that 84% of department members have complied with the city's request that they enter their vaccination status into a computer portal.

"Last year, we all know the looting and rioting that went around and the 12, 14-hour days that we were put through, this mayor did not care then about our health, so you don't care about our health now. This is about control," said Stephanie. "She can't control the violence, she can't control the crime, so she's trying to control our health."

In about 30 city departments, all or nearly all employees have already complied with the requirement to report their vaccine status.

Lagging behind are police and fire.

Officials say that in addition to the health of individual first responders, they are concerned about people they encounter on the street.

"We’ve been following that at the state level, as you've seen, negotiation with each of the state employee unions in order to negotiate for vaccines. We want our most vulnerable people to be protected by the people who work with them," said Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

An arbitrator ruled last week that several unions representing Chicago firefighters and other city employees must follow Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s COVID-19 vaccination policy.

The ruling means that the union employees will lose pay if they do not receive a first shot by Dec. 31. They must get a second shot by Jan. 31 if they choose a two-dose vaccine.

The ruling applies to the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 21, Service Employees International Union Local 73, Teamsters Local 700 and Coalition of Unionized Public Employees.

The ruling does not apply to members of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. A Cook County judge suspended the Dec. 31 vaccination deadline for police and sent the issue to arbitration, which begins Dec. 27.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.