A Suffolk Superior Court judge has rejected the Massachusetts State Police union’s motion to delay Governor Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement, which carries an Oct. 17 deadline, according to court documents.
The union had filed its lawsuit last week and sought to put a hold on the vaccination mandate to allow time for it to bargain and negotiate the terms of employment. The union claimed that troopers would undergo “irreparable harm” if the deadline were not pushed back.
Judge Jackie Cowin, however, ruled that the State Police Association of Massachusetts’ arguments “frame the public interest too narrowly, by focusing on its members to the exclusion of everyone else,” court records show.
“Specifically, 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,” the court’s order read, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show the virus spreads more easily through unvaccinated individuals.
The order said that “while the Union has a significant interest in effecting its right to bargain the terms and conditions of its members’ employment ... the Court concludes that this interest is outweighed by the Commonwealth’s more significant interest in protecting the health and safety of its workforces, those who come into contact with its workforce, and the public in general.”
The union, which represents 1,800 members, has reported that 80 percent of its members are vaccinated, according to the documents.
Among the requests laid out in the State Police union’s lawsuit was to allow troopers who choose not to get vaccinated, or who have already been infected with COVID-19, to instead be allowed to wear masks and submit to weekly testing for the virus.
Baker issued an order on Aug. 19 requiring that all state workers under the governor’s control, including state troopers, to be fully vaccinated or claim a personal, medical, or religious exemption by Oct. 17, or face discipline up to and including termination. It is considered one of the most strict vaccine mandates in the country because it doesn’t allow workers to choose regular testing in lieu of receiving a vaccine.
The order was embraced by human services workers but drew threats of legal action by others, including correctional officers.