Mass. police union sues governor over vaccine mandate

The union also demands any coronavirus-related injury or death "automatically be considered a line-of-duty injury"

By Erin Tiernan
Boston Herald

BOSTON — The State Police union has filed suit against Gov. Charlie Baker seeking to delay a vaccine mandate that requires state workers — including troopers — be fully vaccinated by Oct. 17 or risk being fired.

A 14-page lawsuit filed Friday in Suffolk Superior Court asks a judge to put the vaccine mandate on hold. The troopers' union, which represents about 1,800 members, is looking for more time to bargain to "negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment," according to the lawsuit.

"Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm if a status quo injunction is not granted," the lawsuit said.

A hearing on the suit has been scheduled for Wednesday.

Calls to union president Michael Cherven were not immediately returned on Tuesday. The union declined to comment through a spokesman.

Baker's vaccine mandate — considered one of the strictest in the nation — applies to roughly 42,000 workers and state contractors, giving little leeway for alternatives.

SPAM is asking that troopers who choose not to get the vaccine or who have already contracted COVID-19 be allowed to undergo weekly tests and wear a mask while on the job instead. It's an option not included in the current state mandate, but one that many cities — including Boston — have pushed through.

Boston's vaccine mandate, which started being phased in this Monday, allows the city's 18,000 workers to submit to weekly testing in lieu of vaccination.

The union is also asking for "presumptive protection" for troopers who get sick from COVID or the vaccine, according to the suit.

The union demands any coronavirus-related injury or death "automatically be considered a line-of-duty injury," which would come with additional benefits for members, the lawsuit states.

Baker did not address the lawsuit during an appearance in Lowell on Tuesday. His administration's policy is not to comment on pending litigation.

The clock is ticking for employees who looking to get into compliance before the mandate takes effect next month.

Per the mandate that was announced in mid-August, employees who still need to get the vaccine would have to schedule their first dose of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine by this upcoming Sunday in order to comply. State workers getting the Moderna vaccine would have had to begin their regimen by last Sunday, as the lawsuit notes.

The State Police union — along with unions representing MBTA workers and prison guards — were quick to push back on the state vaccine mandate announced Aug. 19, saying troopers "take exception to the all-or-nothing approach" of the vaccine mandate.

So far, 18 states plus Washington D.C. have mandated public workers vax up or risk being fired, according to the Pew Institute. Nearly all of those states, however, allow for a weekly testing alternative to vaccination.

(c)2021 the Boston Herald

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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