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Mass. State Troopers' Union Sues Over Vaccine Mandate

Massachusetts State Police worker Lisa Watson received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Gillette Stadium COVID-19 Vaccination Center in January. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Massachusetts State Police worker Lisa Watson received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Gillette Stadium COVID-19 Vaccination Center in January. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

A union representing Massachusetts state troopers is challenging Gov. Charlie Baker's vaccine mandate.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in Suffolk Superior Court, the State Police Association of Massachusetts asked a judge to put the mandate on hold. Baker's order requires state employees under the governor's control, including state troopers, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or claim a medical or religious exemption by Oct. 17.

The union, which represents 1,800 members, says the state needs to bargain with workers first.

According to court records, the union has requested that workers who don't want the vaccine, or who already had COVID, be allowed to undergo weekly tests and wear a mask instead of getting the shot.

Some other vaccine mandates, such as those in Boston and New Bedford, give workers the choice of getting vaccinated or submitting to regular testing.

The union also wants the department  to give state troopers "presumptive protection" from COVID-19 and vaccinations. That means if any member falls ill from COVID or the vaccine, or or dies or becomes so ill they are forced to retire, it would be considered a line-of-duty injury and could carry additional financial benefits.

A hearing on the dispute is scheduled for Wednesday.

State Police declined to comment on the suit, but said that about 70% of both sworn and civilian workers were vaccinated at clinics offered by the department. The department said it wasn't sure how many additional workers were vaccinated elsewhere.

An attorney representing the troopers declined to comment Monday.

The union representing prison guards and other corrections officials in Massachusetts last month threatened its own legal action against the vaccine mandate.

Those challenging vaccine mandates across the country have had mixed results in the courts. The Supreme Court allowed Indiana University to proceed with its vaccine mandate for students. But a federal judge temporarily blocked the state of New York from forcing medical workers to get vaccinated. The workers argued their rights were violated because the mandate did not allow religious exemptions.

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Ally Jarmanning Twitter Senior Reporter
Ally is a senior reporter focused on criminal justice and police accountability.

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