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Some Mass. state workers could jump to other agencies to avoid vaccine mandates03:03
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Flanked by Massachusetts state troopers and officers from other states, State Police Association of Massachusetts President Michael Cherven speaks to reporters on Boston Common about the Baker administration's vaccine mandate on Monday. (Chris Lisinski/SHNS)
Flanked by Massachusetts state troopers and officers from other states, State Police Association of Massachusetts President Michael Cherven speaks to reporters on Boston Common about the Baker administration's vaccine mandate on Monday. (Chris Lisinski/SHNS)

The small town of Hanson has two job openings that could not be more different. One is for an executive assistant. The other is for a heavy equipment operator.

But some of the applicants have one thing in common: They work for the state.

State employee unions say many workers are suddenly hunting for new jobs because they refuse to comply with Gov. Charlie Baker's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. And some cities and towns that don't require immunizations report seeing an uptick in interest from state workers.

Though Baker's order has survived legal challenges, many cities and towns across the state are leery of enacting similar orders for fear of lawsuits from unions or workers.

"Towns just don't have the budget to defend a mandatory vaccine requirement" if they are sued, said Hanson Town Administrator Lisa Green.

The Massachusetts Municipal Association says policies vary widely from community to community. Some are requiring workers to be vaccinated, similar to Baker's order. Others are only ordering workers in certain departments to get the shots. Some, like Boston, are giving workers a choice of getting vaccinated or submitting to regular testing. And yet others have different rules for new hires.

"It's very complicated, due to the requirement to negotiate with so many different labor unions," said MMA Executive Director Geoffrey Beckwith.

In Salem, for example, police officers can remain unvaccinated if they agree to be tested for COVID-19 twice per week. But that option is available only to existing employees; new hires would have to be vaccinated, said Police Chief Lucas Miller.

By contrast, the Wenham police department has no vaccine requirement for new hires. Chief Kevin DiNapoli said they're simply "looking for the best possible candidate to serve the community."

Gov. Charlie Baker's office says the vast majority of state workers have complied with the vaccine mandate. But more than 1,500 had failed to either apply for a waiver or submit proof they had been vaccinated as of last week.

State Police troopers are among the most visible opponents of vaccine requirements. The union says 200 of the roughly 2,000 state troopers have sought waivers for medical or religious reasons. It's unclear how many exemptions the state will approve, but the union says the state has already rejected some of the pending requests, forcing some troopers to find new jobs.

Some other government agencies are hoping to benefit. Both New Hampshire and New Jersey have told Massachusetts state troopers they have openings and no vaccine requirements, according to a spokesman for the State Police Association of Massachusetts

In addition, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Fox News recently that he hopes to offer $5,000 signing bonuses to police offers who relocate to the Sunshine State.

But Michael Cherven, the head of the Massachusetts state police union, acknowledged his members could have a hard time maintaining their salaries if they switch to another state or local agency. The vast majority of state troopers earn over $100,000 in Massachusetts and many earn more than $200,000, including overtime.

This segment aired on October 29, 2021.

Related:

Callum Borchers Twitter Reporter
Callum covers the Greater Boston business community for Bostonomix.

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