A Massachusetts judge has denied a bid by the state police union to delay mandatory vaccinations for all state employees.
The State Police Association of Massachusetts, a union representing about 1,800 state police officers, filed a lawsuit (pdf) last week asking the judge to put the mandate on hold to give the union time to “negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment” before a deadline of Oct. 17.
“The public interest is, unquestionably, best served by stopping the spread of the virus, in order to protect people from becoming ill, ensure adequate supply of medical services, and curtail the emergence of new, deadlier variants of the virus,” Judge Jackie Cowin said in the decision, reported The Associated Press.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, issued an executive order last month that would require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all executive department employees by Oct. 17.
“Executive Department employees who are not vaccinated or approved for an exemption as of October 17, 2021 will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination … Management employees not in compliance as of October 17, 2021 will also be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.” Baker’s office said in a statement.
His office also stated, “The Administration will continue to work with its union partners regarding this policy, and specific ramifications of non-compliance for staff represented by unions will be discussed well in advance of October 17 with each employee union.”
The union had asked that troopers who don’t get the vaccine be allowed to wear a mask and undergo weekly COVID-19 testing instead.
“We are disappointed in the judge’s ruling; however, we respect her decision,” Michael Cherven, the union’s president, said in a statement. “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.”
“Throughout COVID, we have been on the front lines protecting the citizens of Massachusetts and beyond. Simply put, all we are asking for are the same basic accommodations that countless other departments have provided to their first responders, and to treat a COVID related illness as a line of duty injury.
“To date, dozens of troopers have already submitted their resignation paperwork, some of whom plan to return to other departments offering reasonable alternatives such as mask wearing and regular testing,” he added. “The State Police are already critically short staffed and acknowledged this by the unprecedented moves which took troopers from specialty units that investigate homicides, terrorism, computer crimes, arsons, gangs, narcotics, and human trafficking, and returned them to uniformed patrol.”