Mass. Supreme Judicial Court Considers Boston's City Worker Vaccine Mandate

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BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The employment of a number of city workers is now in the hands of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which is considering an appeal from the City of Boston, over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for those on its payroll. The SJC heard oral arguments from both sides of the case on Friday.

At the core of the argument, justices are deciding if there is enough of an urgent need for Boston Mayor Michelle Wu's office to bypass collective bargaining unions that represent the city's fire fighters and police personnel, and unilaterally put the vaccine mandates in place.

Lawyers representing the unions say "no," arguing the city itself bolstered the implementation of its mandate enforcement. When justices asked if union first responders would receive discipline for violating the mandate, employee legal counsel responded "yes," saying that 400 Boston public safety workers are at risk of losing their jobs.

As it stands, the 17-month-old vaccination policy allows for religious and medical exemptions.

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Attorney Patrick Bryant representing the Boston Police Superior Officer Federation said that the city's decision clearly breached its agreement with its employees and unions.

"There have been three tribunals that have agreed that the city's manner of implementing this policy violated its obligations to the union. So, we are just looking for the city to meet its bargaining obligations with us," Bryant said.

The city counters that it was following guidance from Boston Public Health Commission, and that the vaccination policy does not clash with decision and impact bargaining laws. Public safety unions across the country have been watching to see how this case unfolds, as a ruling in the city's favor, some say, could set a precedent as to what public employers can implement without negotiating with unions first.

Other Boston unions that are on the case include the Boston Firefighters Union Local 718 and Boston Police Detectives Benelovent Society.

WBZ's Kendall Buhl reports.

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