The union representing Massachusetts State Police officers will explore “even more legal action” against Gov. Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state workers after another 12 members were fired late last week.
More than seven months after Baker ordered all executive branch employees to provide proof of vaccination by Oct. 17 or face disciplinary action, the State Police department on Friday terminated 11 troopers and one sergeant for failing to comply with the requirement.
All 12 of those workers were fired “in the culmination of the internal hearing process,” and none are among the seven troopers who are temporarily shielded from termination under a judge’s March 30 injunction, according to a State Police spokesperson.
The fired officers join roughly 1,000 other executive branch workers who have departed their jobs, either voluntarily or via termination, in the wake of Baker’s vaccine mandate.
Slamming Baker’s decisions as “vindictive and shameful,” the State Police Association of Massachusetts criticized the governor for keeping the vaccine mandate executive order in place even as he works to lift other pandemic-era restrictions such as a school mask mandate.
“Governor Baker should be ashamed for the damage he has done to his employees and their families,” SPAM President Patrick McNamara said in a statement posted to Twitter. “Our members served this state honorably. A true leader would never treat the men and women who serve this Commonwealth in such a disgraceful manner!”
McNamara said the union will “follow through” on grievances and fight on behalf of “wrongfully terminated members.”
“Lastly, the Association leadership has further consulted our attorneys to explore even more legal action relevant to (the executive order),” McNamara said.
Courts and other official bodies have largely upheld the Baker administration’s vaccine mandate since its rollout. In February, the Commonwealth Employee Relations Board ruled that a Department of Labor Relations investigator was right to dismiss SPAM’s complaint.
Late last month, a Suffolk Superior Court judge ruled that seven State Police officers can keep their jobs for the time being while their case continues, though the order stresses that the department can continue to enforce the vaccine mandate against other employees, according to a Boston Herald report.
The union also appears to be tangling with Baker over State Police pay.
The state and SPAM, which had more than 2,100 full-time employee equivalents in the last contract period, had a $26.3 million agreement in place from Jan. 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2020, offering members salary increases of 2 percent in 2018, 2 percent in 2019 and 1.95 percent in 2020. The parties continue to negotiate a new contract.
Baker last week used Twitter to highlight more than $400 million in unexpected tax collections in March.
“With numbers like that, along with prices rising across the board, it’s clear that hardworking families, seniors and low-income residents deserve a break,” Baker tweeted, promoting his $700 million tax relief plan.
McNamara sniped back at the governor. “$400 million SURPLUS tax revenue on top of BILLIONS more but offers the unions slightly more than a 2%,” he wrote in a tweet quoting Baker’s latest push for tax relief. “Negotiates in bad faith. Withholds our pay for service during COVID. Fails to create an equal pay for equal work environment for all Troopers. Hey Gov, let’s talk.”
Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, who serves as a security analyst for WBZ, said in a televised interview last week that the latest batch of firings “shows the governor is extremely serious about his desire to protect the public.”
“It is a severe punishment, but it’s appropriate for a trooper or police officer that refuses a direct order if it’s a legal order,” Davis told WBZ.
A Baker administration spokesperson on Monday could not provide up-to-date data summarizing the vaccine mandate’s impact on the executive branch and instead referred to data from late January.
As of Jan. 26, more than 97 percent of the 41,632 eligible executive branch employees were in compliance with the vaccine mandate, and 1,013 had left their jobs by choice or termination.
Another 80 workers were deemed “in progress,” meaning their compliance status was still under review, they were in a waiting period after an exemption denial or they were receiving a temporary accommodation.
Thirty-five workers were on the “discipline track” as of Jan. 26 and serving a five- or 10-day suspension stemming from their refusal to comply with the vaccine mandate.
(Copyright (c) 2024 State House News Service.