Coronavirus

Massachusetts state troopers union sues over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

The union argues that its members will suffer "irreparable harm" if a judge does not delay the requirement.

Mass. State Police Headquarters in Framingham. John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe

The union representing the vast majority of Massachusetts state police officers is suing Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration in an attempt to block the governor’s COVID-19 requirement for state workers, which takes effect next month.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in Suffolk County Superior Court, the State Police Association of Massachusetts is asking a judge to at least delay the mandate, as the union, which represents 1,809 of the state’s 2,097 state troopers, continues to negotiate on behalf of its members.

“Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm if a status quo injunction is not granted,” the 14-page lawsuit reads.

As WBUR first reported Monday afternoon, SPAM is requesting that officers who don’t want to get the vaccine or who have already contracted COVID-19 be allowed to undergo weekly tests and wear a mask instead while on the job.

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Those alternatives aren’t in the current mandate.

Under the order announced by Baker last month, the roughly 44,000 direct employees and contractors of the state’s executive branch will be required to provide proof that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 17 or face “disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”

As the lawsuit notes, that means employees who still need to get the vaccine would have to schedule their first dose of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine no later than this upcoming Sunday to comply; an individual who wants to get the Moderna vaccine would have had to begin their regimen by this past Sunday.

It’s unclear exactly how many state troopers have been vaccinated. The Boston Globe reported in March that 30 percent of troopers had not been vaccinated at state police-run clinics. However, that doesn’t count officers who may have gotten the vaccine elsewhere; SPAM contends that “the actual number of unvaccinated personnel is certainly far fewer” than 30 percent.

Their lawsuit also says they’re seeking “presumptive protection,” meaning if an officer became ill, was forced to retire, or died from COVID-19 — or experienced side effects from the vaccine — it would be considered a line-of-duty injury and could come with additional financial benefits.

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Neither side is commenting on the suit, citing the pending litigation, though SPAM President Mike Cherven criticized Baker’s mandate as a “surprise” and “crudely done” after it was announced in August.

Baker’s office has repeatedly stressed that COVID-19 vaccination is “the best and most effective way people can protect themselves, their loved ones, and their community from the virus.”

A hearing on the suit is scheduled this Wednesday, according to court records.

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