BOSTON (CBS) – The State Police Association of Massachusetts says roughly 300 of its members still have not complied with Governor Charlie Baker’s vaccine mandate for state employees.
About 200 of them have sought exemptions. Union president Sgt. Michael Cherven said the state hasn’t responded yet to the exemptions.
At a news conference Monday in Boston, the union said the lack of communication between the state and those who applied for exemptions is causing anxiety.
“Let me be clear, our concern is not one of anti-vaccination, in fact, the vast majority, almost 85% of our membership is vaccinated. Our concern is based in the lack of fundamental fairness in the Administration’s consistent efforts to undermine the processes by which organized labor secures the rights of its members. On August 19, Governor Baker announced that there would be 60 days to bargain and implement a policy for mandated vaccinations. Well, 60 days has passed. Though we are beyond the deadline, we have not received even one reply to the several hundred medical and religious exemption requests that were submitted,” said Cherven.
The mandate could also draw down on an already understaffed force, the union argued.
“We’ll make sure that we do what we need to do to make sure that they continue to perform the duties that they’re expected to perform, I’m not concerned about that,” Baker said.
According to the Baker administration, 40,462 active state employees submitted the required proof of vaccination or submitted an exemption waiver by Sunday’s deadline, about 1,571 have not responded. That’s roughly 4 percent.
“That is a much bigger number than we had two weeks ago,” Baker said.
That means managers in state departments will now have to seek out those employees to ask their status, and after that, they could face progressive discipline and ultimately termination.
Progressive discipline for non-union employees begins with a five-day suspension without pay then termination. Union employees would also face a five-day suspension, then a 10-day suspension, and then termination.
The Baker administration said they did not anticipate any significant staffing shortages in the immediate future. Managers will now reach out to individuals who haven’t complied to see what their reasoning is.
Both the State Police union and the union representing corrections officers tried to fight the vaccine mandate in court without success.
Last week, the corrections officers’ union said that roughly 1,500 members, about half of their force, had not complied. Governor Baker activated 250 National Guardsmen to help fill some of those shortages.
Baker has continually argued that vaccination is the best tool for keeping employees and their families safe. According to his mandate, employees do not have the option to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing instead of getting vaccinated.
Unless they were told otherwise, all state employees were to attend work as usual Monday as the state continues to review exemptions.