Boston City Workers Win Bid to Overturn Vaccine Mandate

By Alice Giordano
Alice Giordano
Alice Giordano
Alice Giordano is a former news correspondent for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and New England bureau of The New York Times.
February 16, 2022 Updated: February 17, 2022

Boston city workers have won their bid to suspend Mayor Michelle Wu’s vaccination mandate policy.

A Massachusetts Appeals Court judge issued an injunction prohibiting the city from enforcing its Dec. 20, 2021, vaccine mandate policy for Boston union police and firefighters.

The ruling overturned a lower court’s earlier ruling that kept the mandate in place. The injunction is in effect indefinitely.

In an 18-page opinion, Judge Sabita Singh concluded that an injunction against the vaccine mandate posed a low risk to the public while denying one would risk the loss of essential public employees.

“Given the limited harm to the city and the public health interest it seeks to promote, and the substantial harm likely to be sustained by the unions in the absence of an injunction, the balance of harms favors the issuance of an injunction to preserve the status quo,” Singh wrote.

The ruling comes less than two weeks after Wu, a Democrat, held a press conference vowing to reaffirm her office’s intent to enforce the vaccine mandate for city workers after failed negotiations with the Boston police and firefighter unions. Outside of the press conference, Boston firefighters chanted “let us work” in protest.

In a written statement released to The Epoch Times on Feb. 16, Wu emphasized court rulings supporting government employee mandates.

“More than 95 percent of the city’s workforce is vaccinated because of the policy we enacted. Our workers and residents who rely on city services deserve to be protected,” Wu said in her statement.

The court left in place the city’s COVID-19 testing requirements for city workers.

Boston Firefighters Local 718, Boston Police Superior Officers Federation, and the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society filed for the injunction. The three unions did not return calls seeking comment.

“The decision by Justice Singh demonstrates that when one puts away the far-fetched rhetoric and the social media soundbites,” the law and the facts are on our side,” the Boston Firefighters union said in a statement.

The Massachusetts ruling follows closely behind several moves to relax COVID-19 mandates in Massachusetts. The state has imposed some of the most restrictive COVID-related mandates throughout the pandemic.

Boston is among several U.S. cities that imposed vaccine passports for indoor venues like restaurants. Wu recently indicated that she is considering rescinding the requirement with COVID-positive cases declining in Massachusetts.

Last week, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced that the state would lift its school mask mandate at the end of the month.

The state also recently shifted its recommendation that everyone wear a mask regardless of their vaccination status to recommend it only for those not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

While Massachusetts, the home of the Kennedys, has long been a Democratic state, an active network of conservatives has led large protests against COVID-19 mandates.

Last year, dozens of Massachusetts state troopers quit in protest of the vaccine mandate.

Several conservative grassroots groups have also cropped up in the Boston area, including Free The Hub, Boston First Responders United, and Massachusetts Says No. Some members of the groups have protested outside of Wu’s home since she announced she would be implementing a vaccine passport.

The city also plays host to three popular conservative talk radio shows. One of them, Jeff Kuhner, who occupies the popular morning spot among Boston commuters, has organized rallies attended by thousands in front of the statehouse in Boston.

There have also been minor violence in the Bay state over COVID-19 mandates. In January, a man punched the manager of Pizzeria Regina, an iconic pizzeria in Boston’s Italian North End neighborhood, after the manager asked him to mask up or leave the restaurant.

During the same week of the assault, police officers on opposite sides of the COVID-19 mandate debate got into a verbal altercation after an employee at another Pizzeria Regina location in Boston called the police on an off-duty police sergeant, who refused to show a vaccine passport in the restaurant.

Alice Giordano is a former news correspondent for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and New England bureau of The New York Times.