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Mass. Correction Officers Union Sues Over Covid Vaccine Mandate

The union representing 4,000 Massachusetts correction officers has filed a federal complaint to try to block Gov. Charlie Baker's coronavirus vaccine mandate.

The Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union filed the 19-page complaint Wednesday, saying the governor's mandate violates their collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

"The mandate imposes an unreasonable, coercive condition on employees covered by the CBA: they must choose between a) exercising their constitutional right to decline unwanted medical treatment but thereby lose their reasonably-expected employment security, or b) forfeiting their right to decline unwanted medical treatment in order to retain their constitutionally-protected employment security," attorneys wrote in the complaint.

Among other things, the complaint argues that being vaccinated does not fully protect the correction officers or others from the virus because there are "breakthrough cases" where those fully vaccinated have become infected. It also argues that prisoners are not required to get the shot.

"Requiring that DOC employees receive the vaccine thus does not guarantee that employees do not get sick and die from the virus, and it does not insure or guarantee that inmates or fellow employees will not become infected through contact with DOC employees," the complaint reads.

The complaint names Baker and Massachusetts Correction Commissioner Carol Mici as defendants.

Under Baker's mandate,  state workers must get vaccinated or seek an exemption by Oct. 17. If they don't, they could face discipline, including termination.

Massachusetts State Police recently lost their legal challenge to the state vaccine mandate in Superior Court. They were seeking to delay the mandate so they could negotiate the terms and potentially allow those who did not want to be vaccinated to instead wear masks and be tested regularly. The judge ruled that the union's interest is "outweighed" by the state's interest in protecting the health and safety of its workforce and the general public.

Representatives from the union, the governor's office or Department of Correction have not responded to requests for comment.

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Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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