Labor appeals board upholds Baker’s vaccine mandate
More than 1,000 state workers have lost jobs
A STATE APPEALS board has ruled that Gov. Charlie Baker’s vaccine mandate for executive branch workers is legal, ending the final avenue of appeals for a challenge by the state police union.
The Commonwealth Employment Labor Relations Board ruled Thursday that Baker had authority to require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 17, without bargaining the mandate with unions. “As a matter of safeguarding both the public and its employees, we find it well within the Commonwealth’s core managerial authority to not only require mandatory vaccination for all executive department employees, as opposed to just masking or frequent testing, but to set a deadline by which this goal should be accomplished,” the decision says.
Unions representing the state police and state correctional officers both brought lawsuits challenging Baker’s vaccine requirement, but judges dismissed those suits. The State Police Association of Massachusetts also challenged the mandate before the state’s Department of Labor Relations. The union argued that Baker was not allowed to impose the vaccine mandate without first bargaining with the unions.
The Department of Labor Relations dismissed the challenge, and the police union appealed to the CERB. The denial of the appeal is the final step for the complaint.
Since the mandate went into effect, according to state figures, 40,504 of 41,632 executive branch employees, or 97 percent, either got a vaccine or obtained a religious or medical exemption. There were 1,013 employees who were fired or quit rather than comply. Another 115 are still going through the process – either they are suspended, they are awaiting a ruling on an exemption request, or they are between two doses.