Union claims dozens of Mass. state troopers will resign over vaccine mandate

Troopers have until Oct. 17 to be vaccinated after a union lawsuit seeking a delay was denied


By Will Katcher
masslive.com
        
BOSTON — The union representing 1,800 members of the Massachusetts State Police said on Friday that “dozens of troopers” had submitted resignation paperwork after a Suffolk Superior Court judge denied the union’s request to block Gov. Charlie Baker’s COVID vaccine mandate for state employees.

But to date, only one trooper has actually resigned over the mandate, a state police spokesperson said Monday.

“The Department has been notified by our HR office of one Trooper who has definitively stated he will retire because of the vaccine mandate,” spokesperson David Procopio told the Boston Globe.

Other troops have indicated they may resign or retire due to the mandate, Procopio said, but as of Monday night only one had.

Baker is requiring all state workers to be vaccinated for COVID by Oct. 17, or risk losing their jobs. The governor is offering limited exemptions for medical and religious reasons.

On Friday, a lawsuit brought by the State Police Association of Massachusetts to delay the mandate was denied by Judge Jackie Cowin of Suffolk Superior Court, who ruled that the union had failed to show how the mandate would cause irreparable harm to its members if implemented as intended.

The union had hoped to block the mandate until its details could be collectively bargained with the state, saying members had the right as public employees to negotiate any conditions of their employment.

After the mandate was announced, the union asked for a weekly testing alternative for troopers who chose not to be vaccinated. The union also asked that COVID be considered a line-of-duty injury, which would add additional benefits for members infected by the virus.

But these requests were denied by the state, prompting the union’s lawsuit as the deadline to be vaccinated approached.

On Friday, Michael Cherven, the State Police Association of Massachusetts president, said the union was disappointed by the judge’s ruling, but would respect it.

“It is unfortunate that the Governor and his team have chosen to mandate one of the most stringent vaccine mandates in the country with no reasonable alternatives,” Cherven said.

The state police, he said, were already “critically” understaffed before the mandate, leading to troopers from specialty units investigating terrorism, gangs and drugs being reassigned to patrol duty.

The department had prepared for a staff shortage this year, with an incoming class of roughly 170 new troopers unable to compensate for more than 250 retirees.

Baker’s vaccine order, signed Aug. 19, covers 40,000 state employees. As of Tuesday, 77% of the state had received one shot, and 68% was fully vaccinated — among the highest rates of inoculation in the country.

©2021 Advance Local Media LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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