May 23, 2022

Massachusetts court stays vaccine mandate for first responders as litigation continues

Massachusetts Appeals Court Judge Sabita Singh ruled to block a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for first responders on Tuesday, saying that the city’s mandate cannot be enforced on the three union members, according to The Hill

In her opinion, Singh stated that the legal challenges needed to be resolved before Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s vaccine mandate for city employees could be enforced. 

The judge was asked to settle a dispute between the city and three unions, the Boston Firefighters Local 718, Boston Police Superior Officers Federation and the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society, according to Boston.com.

“Given the limited harm to the city and the public health interest it seeks to promote, and the substantial harm likely to be sustained by the unions in the absence of an injunction, the balance of harms favors the issuance of an injunction to preserve the status quo, in view of the unions’ likelihood of success on the merits,” Singh wrote in her order.

The legal challenges, and broader debate, are still ongoing, however there has been an agreement between the three unions and the city of Boston that the mandate for weekly testing will stay in place, following Wu’s mandate for city employees, which was issued in November. 

A spokesperson for the Boston city government and Wu’s office told the news outlet that the city leadership were disappointed by the ruling on Tuesday.

“To protect communities and workplaces against COVID-19, courts across the country have repeatedly recognized the rights of state and local governments to require public employees to be vaccinated,” they said. 

“More than 95 percent of the city’s workforce is vaccinated because of the policy we enacted. Our workers and residents who rely on city services deserve to be protected.”

The Boston Police Superior Officers Federation made a statement on social media following the ruling saying the union was not waging an anti-vaccination fight. The organization said that it was “a chance to hold our elected leaders accountable while protecting our member’s labor rights.”

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