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State appeals court pauses vaccination mandate for Boston city workforce

Union members hold signs during a press conference held at Florian Hall in Boston.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

A judge with the Massachusetts Appeals Court has temporarily paused Boston’s vaccination mandate for city workers represented by three public safety unions that was set to go into effect Monday.

In a Thursday order, the judge issued a temporary stay, pending review of a judicial decision made earlier this month that denied a request from three unions for a preliminary injunction.

That order is the latest turn in a clash that has pitted Mayor Michelle Wu’s new administration against municipal unions over her attempt to require the city’s 18,000-plus workers be vaccinated in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 and protect the public.


It comes a day after three public safety unions filed an appeal of a judge’s decision that rejected their push to block enforcement of the vaccination mandate, which does away with the option for city workers to get regular COVID tests in lieu of jabs.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs want the court to stop the city from enforcing the policy “until the underlying contractual and collective bargaining disputes are resolved by competent tribunals.”

“[T]he City’s acts, subsequent to the Judge’s decision, to unilaterally extend the vaccine deadline twice for two weeks shows the public interest is not against an injunction,” the unions said in a court filing this week.

Wu has pushed back the date when the mandate will be enforced twice, citing progress in talks with union leaders. Before the judge granted the stay on Thursday, workers who chose not to be vaccinated and have not received exemptions were to be placed on unpaid leave starting Monday, pending further action.

Wu has said repeatedly she remains committed to the requirement despite the opposition.

“The goal of this was not to punish anyone for how they might feel about vaccination but to ensure that our city workers are safe and that any resident interacting with our city workforce is safe,” Wu said Monday afternoon during an appearance on WBUR’s “Radio Boston.”


Thursday’s order read, “A response from the defendants to the plaintiffs’ petition is requested and due on or before February 3, 2022.”

Danny McDonald can be reached at Follow him @Danny__McDonald.