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Boston firefighters union calls new vaccine mandate a human-rights violation; looking at how to fight it - or get city into collective bargaining over it

While the Boston Teachers Union gave its immediate support to acting Mayor Kim Janey's impending vaccination mandate for city workers, Boston Firefighters Local 718 is saying tonight it may fight the order, not because it opposes vaccination but because the requirement represents a change in working conditions without any bargaining.

In an e-mail to his members this afternoon, Local 718 President John Soares urged his members to attend an Aug. 19 union meeting to discuss how the union should respond. He emphasized the union's attorney is carefully scrutinizing the new requirement - and that he is talking to the head of other Boston employee unions about possible united action over what he called an insult to the rights of city workers.

We first learned of a potential mandatory COVID vaccination policy being proposed by Mayor Janey for City of Boston employees in the media approximately two weeks ago. Learning of such a major change in working conditions and violation of an individual’s human rights under these circumstances is not only unacceptable but represents a lack of respect to the men and women who have selflessly served on the front lines since the beginning of this global pandemic. This policy has generated a myriad of questions and scenarios that could have lasting effects not only on our members’ health and rights but on the collective bargaining process.

Boston Firefighters understand the seriousness of the COVID virus because of the personal nature of our work protecting the public. Our concerns regarding mandated vaccination should not in any way be misconstrued to belittle the deadly effects of this virus. We have strived throughout this pandemic to maintain safe working conditions for our members, their families, and the public we serve. I am proud of how we have conducted ourselves professionally during these challenging times and for the partnership we have with Commissioner Dempsey. However, we deserve, like all city employees deserve, an opportunity to address our concerns with a meaningful dialogue on all sides of this issue. As your President, I will continue to navigate this situation until a resolution can be reached.

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Comments

And retained the services of Dewey, Cheetham & Howe

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And disgusting that they would use this as an opportunity to bargain for more money, benefits or perks. This is most certainly NOT “ a major change in working conditions and violation of an individual’s human rights”. This really steams me.

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Where does the letter ask for any money, benefits or perks?
The position of 718 seems clear, the terms and requirements of this mandate were not negotiated. The Acting Mayor unilaterally changed the working conditions for approximately 18,000 municipal employees and union member who fall under collective bargaining agreements. She did this without any notice or negotiation. Today BFD has few, if any, COVID positive members. There has not been a single publicly documented infection of a citizen traced to an on duty BFD member. The BFD did not have a single death from COVID pandemic even though they worked on the front line without a vaccine for many months. Neither did BEMS. BPD had a single death of an officer with several pre-existing conditions. So we are talking about 1 death out of several thousand front line workers who worked for moths responding to emergencies.
This is a political move by an Acting Mayor under pressure from a political opponent. She is using city employees as pawns in her quest to retain power. All while ignoring the exploding health crisis of violence throughout the city and an epidemic of homeless drug addicts that surrounds BFD headquarters.
718 and the other municipal labor unions deserve more respect than a forced mandate. It’s estimated over 70% of BFD voluntarily vaccinated. This mandate is not rooted in science or data but politics.

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I was going to respond at length but then I realized I can simply write "I concur"

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Oh boo hoo. We're in a PANDEMIC. It's not like the mayor is unilaterally asking the fire department to, say, submit to random drug tests.
Riiight, I forgot they made that a term of the last collective bargaining agreement, despite being found to have members high while working (at at least one dying because of it). Did the city pull the death benefits to this firefighter's family? No they did not...the city did the right thing. And STILL the union demanded something for drug testing, despite the public health threat.

I'm pro-union, but consider me against BFD's unions until they come down to earth with their demands.

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Because you sure sound upset that this union is doing it's job. As someone who works for a unionized public agency, this seems pretty standard and the acting mayor really needs to open up a conversation to unions before dropping someone like this to avoid hold-ups. Hopefully lessons were learned.

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Did we miss the memo indicating that being "pro-union" precludes criticism of unions' actions?

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We are not looking for more money.

Forcing and mandating vaccines and weekly testing for Firefighters or any American is Unconstitutional and clear violations of our
1st Amendment Rights, Human rights, Religious rights and civil liberties.

All this for a virus that is 99.97 % survival rate if
You get it.
Fact is fully Vaccinated people are the ones testing positive getting sick and few deaths.
So why push vaccines that are not FDA Approved and nobody knows anything about them.

If you want the vaccine and wear a mask,
Go ahead. If you don’t, it’s your choice.

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Diminishing the severity of the virus that has killed 600k Americans is a good way to cause people to disregard whatever you are writing.

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Thanks for joining us today, John! Let’s take this point by point.

The first amendment gives you the right to free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of press and the right to petition the government — you’re free to bitch and moan (you’ll no doubt take full advantage), but it doesn’t give you the right to avoid this mandate. Also, which religion do you or your peers subscribe to that says you shouldn’t get this vaccine? That shit doesn’t fly with the Pope or BC either, so good luck. You can have all the human rights and civil rights you want, right after you quit your job as a civil servant.

The survival rate you quote is two orders off, the actual number is 99%. Besides being wrong, quoting that 99.97% number is a shitty and very obvious dog whistle. Nobody knows anything about these vaccines? Fine, except that vaccinated people are mysteriously one-tenth as likely to get sick and end up in the hospital as unvaccinated people.

You, friend, are a disgrace. Thanks again for joining us, now please crawl back into your hole.

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Would you refuse treatment in response to a COVID-19 diagnosis?

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The infection fatality rate is at least 1/544, a minimum number because that number is what you get if you divide the number of Americans who have already died of Covid by the total population.

You're also acting as though whatever doesn't kill you is harmless. we're still learning about . long covid, but it's not trivial.

The virus is a lot more dangerous than the vaccine. A lot is known about the vaccines, even if you don't because you're putting your fingers in your ears.

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It's a good bet that most (if not all) of BFD has already been exposed to COVID by now. That changes the numbers dramatically. The odds the previously exposed individuals dying from COVID at this point changes from 1 in 544 to 1 in millions.

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Fact is fully Vaccinated people are the ones testing positive getting sick.

What absolute dishonest bullsh*t.

IMAGE(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/E8n773QXoAAvMmI?format=png&name=900x900)

Forcing and mandating vaccines and weekly testing for Firefighters or any American is Unconstitutional

SCOTUS has ruled otherwise. It’s been covered extensively for the last 6 months.

…and clear violations of our
1st Amendment Rights, Human rights, Religious rights and civil liberties.

False. Consult any literate family member who can use Google as to why you beclown yourself by spreading such pure, uncut ignorance.

Try unplugging the Hannity and Mark Levin and join us here on planet Earth.

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/07/30/provincetown-covid-outb...

CDC study shows three-fourths of people infected in Massachusetts coronavirus outbreak were vaccinated but few required hospitalization

Few required hospitalization just like the vast vast majority of COVID cases dating back to 2019.

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The Provincetown/Boston outbreak. It doesn’t cover the whole state so let’s not pretend that it does. And since most of the people at these events were vaccinated, of course most of the cases were breakthrough cases. I hope no one is dumb enough to read the Post article and think that the virus was skipping over unvaccinated people in search of vaccinated hosts.

The statement was “fully Vaccinated people are the ones testing positive getting sick”. The Herald is reporting an average of 319 breakthrough cases per day last week. The current 7-day rolling average is 1,143 daily cases. That means 72% of the cases are unvaccinated people and makes John’s statement a bald-face lie.

Additionally, as of right now, we only have breakthrough data for the first week in August, so the Vox graphic is almost up to date. From Jan 1 to Aug 7, only 2.9% of all Covid cases have been breakthrough cases.

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If most of the people in a crowd are vaccinated, and there's an outbreak of Delta (from which vaccines only partially protect against infection), there's a good chance that most of the infected will be vaccinated.

What you have to look at, if you want to have any sense of the truth at all, is the *rate per group*. That means you want to compare these two numbers:

- Percent of unvaccinated who became infected
- Percent of vaccinated who became infected

That's the only meaningful way you can do this comparison.

---

To make the absurdity of the reporting obvious, imagine a situation where there are *only* vaccinated people, and one of them gets infected. Look, no one who was unvaccinated got infected! The vaccine must make it infinitely more likely that you get infected!

...which is just silliness.

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Forcing and mandating vaccines and weekly testing for Firefighters or any American is Unconstitutional and clear violations of our
1st Amendment Rights, Human rights, Religious rights and civil liberties.

You must have missed that day in law school where they covered Jacobson v. Massachusetts.

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Just today from Fox News:

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett denied an appeal from students at Indiana University to block the school’s vaccine mandate...

The mandate was being challenged by eight students who argued in court papers filed Friday last week that they have "a constitutional right to bodily integrity, autonomy, and of medical treatment choice in the context of a vaccination mandate." The students asked for an injunction from the High Court barring the university from enforcing the mandate. Seven of the students qualify for a religious exemption.

The appeal’s denial represents the first time the high court has reacted to an emergency appeal specifically related to vaccine mandates, which could set a precedent for how those cases are treated in the future.

So Trump’s hand-picked, ultra-Catholic Supreme Court Justice who was forced through Senate confirmation at warp speed by Mitch McConnell and the GOP doesn’t think that mandating vaccines as a term of employment is unconstitutional.

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So you're saying that it's only one or the other? That if you got long haul COVID you wouldn't file for disability and start sucking off the taxpayers before retirement? Suuuuure.

The only question is if you'd arrange with your buddies to be Captain or whatever for a day before making the claim so you can get a bigger bite of the disability apple.

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“Requiring me to have smoke detectors in my home is unconstitutional! Telling me that my sprinkler height is out of code is a violation of my human rights!”

In year 1 of the pandemic 4.4x as many people died of COVID in Massachusetts than people died of fire nationwide In 2019. 16,311 people died in Massachusetts from March 2020 to March 2021, whereas 3,704 people in the entire US died from fire in 2019. That means 99.99% of all Americans don’t die by fire. So obviously the threat of fire is overblown, these regulations are intrusive overreach by the government, and we can clearly manage with fare fewer firefighters and active firehouses.

Abolish the fire department.

[NB: please take this clearly bad-faith argument in the sarcastic spirit in which it was meant. I like having a fire dept.]

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Ah ah, I love your argument and I may use it the next time I get into a pickle with BFD!

When dealing with inspectors and other BFD paper pushers, one routinely meets the most unhelpful, arrogant and poor communicators of any city department. Because of that, when trying to get a certificate of occupancy the experience usually range between bad and nightmarish. That's what I have experienced and just about anyone who deal with them on a regular basis and doesn't have a relative who works there would concur.

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I like this as a devil's advocate argument, but obviously the reason fire deaths are so low is because we have fire departments, and they are effective. Like the vaccines.

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About this vaccine I don’t want you to be a firefighter in Boston. Move to Florida and haul children’s bodies to the morgue. Plus, you’re a fake.

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That used to post here—same bad grammar, fake accent. Then you got outed as a well-known suburban sot. Rot in the real fire, hell.

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Link to where it happened?

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A public job - any of them - is a privilege, not a right, and with those jobs come certain conditions. Some of those conditions are put in place for the protection of the greater good when dealing with the public. From what I understand, the alternative to the vaccination is frequent testing. They’re offering two options, and the third would be to leave. The testing seems like a good compromise for people that truly are concerned about the vax . I’m not anti- police or fire by any means and am grateful for what they do, but also recognize the right of an employer to put these conditions in place for their workers.

And I don’t know where the 1st Amendment comes into this, but… ok?

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n/t

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All this for a virus that is 99.97 % survival rate if
You get it.

this number just keeps getting higher and higher every time i see it quoted

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They left out a few words. The actual language is "if you get it and don't die."

The other 0.03% is experimental error.

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Uh-uh! That's not how I've heard it, or read about it, especially since Covid-19 has killed over a half a million people here in the United States!

One of my nephews, an Emergency Room Physician who's in his late 30's, works in St. Luke's Hospital, which is New Bedford's 2nd largest hospital. Not only has he seen tons of cases in St. Luke's Hospital (not a single one of who's been vaccinated with the Covid-19 vaccine(s)), but the Emergency Room down in that Hospital is super-crowded. Many of the patients that my nephew has seen have and are regretting not having been vaccinated way too late.

On a happier, more optimistic note, however, my nephew has not seen a single vaccinated person come down with Covid-19.

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It's not unconstitutional. In Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905), the Supreme Court upheld a state’s mandatory compulsory smallpox vaccination law over the challenge of a pastor who alleged that it violated his religious liberty rights.

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Please explain. What religious rights do you have? NONE. This is not a nation that sees anyone as having any particular or specific religious right. Government is precluded from making any religion official. Religious practices are allowed some exceptions from laws governing all other aspects of life. But there are no specific religious rights.

The reality is that courts and law have always sided with the theory that specific religious practices can be prohibited. The largest denomination of LDS no longer allows polygamy due to the passage of the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887. A Federal law banning polygamy.

While there are certain religion beliefs that are tolerated as excepting members from being inoculated those members still have to act in ways that do not cause harm to the public. A recent example being the attempt to stop the University of Indiana from requiring inoculations for staff and students.

Does the BFD use union rules to determine whether they have to accept inoculations against tetanus? Is there anything in the union contract that specifically prohibits the city from requiring firefighters to act in a way that protects the public from viral infections?

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As a clinician in a health center, I see every day the impact that vaccination has had. A tiny bit of normalcy has returned (though things are far from rosy...) - that said, CoVID has provided institutions tremendous authority to mandate decisions that are wide reaching and potentially unfair.

I don't know much about union politics other than the perceptions one has growing up in this area. Unions seem to be somewhat of a protected class in many ways, and have benefited from the ability to retain that status in this state. At the same time, what good is a union if it doesn't provide an opportunity for it's members to be represented fairly? Isn't that in good faith to collective bargaining?

Honest question because I don't know - to what degree are various unions consulted when decisions like this are being made at the city/state level?

I'd hope that city leaders would work to maintain those relationships and find some sense of camaraderie. I get so tired of these games. It's disgraceful.

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What specifically seems "unfair" to you?

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Unions in the US have always been specifically and tightly focused on their members. Reasonable. However, unions and businesses are both parts of the larger society. To expect businesses to be good corporate neighbors is reasonable. The same applies to unions.

In Massachusetts the police and firefighter unions have developed some traits that abuse their position. Prime example are details. Details are legal graft. If a project does not include details then the governmental permits are held up. There in no direction connection between the detail and construction, road work, etc. The issuance of permits is just the method used to no bona fide productive service is provided.

The irony is that where unions are needed they fail to organize. In the south states for example. Where unions have been sources of criminal activity or where they are abusive is where they retain some strength.

Employers will do their best to pull out of employees as much as they can. This is especially a problem in states where laws favor employers. The ideas of "right to work" and no at will employment. So unions are very important to balance out the power that employers have.

But BPD and FD tilt too far toward power for the unions - at the cost and expense of their employers, the people who pay taxes (which ironically does include them).

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They’re the leaders in this space.

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Our acting mayor will be in tears

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Why? Because she's a "girl"?
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I suspect she's made of sterner stuff than you. She's been in politics long enough.

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who would step on their mothers to get the job, then bitch and moan about it once they do. Does their contract include compensation for hand washing before meals?

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Goddamnit, you stole my post

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You can’t require an employee to submit to drug testing without collectively bargaining the change in work conditions. I wonder where requiring a vaccination fits into that analysis?

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...somewhere in the area of performing the basic job functions. A pharmacist who wants to pick and choose which legal authorized medications they dispense should not hold their license, and a firefighter who does not want to take sensible precautions should not hold their position. Would you let a firefighter refuse to wear protective gear?

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If a federal law says that employees who drive vehicles (this is a theoretical) is subject to drug testing, that would preempt collective bargaining. Still, the unions could demand bargaining on impacts- will the testing be done on site or randomly, and who will be paid for it.

I see where the firefighters want impact bargaining on this, but at the end of the day, they most likely can't prevent vaccines or testing.

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Since we're in the middle of a dangerous Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed over 600, 000 here in the United States, however, the vaccines against it need to be made mandatory for everybody, like the polio, smallpox, flu, MRM and the DPT vaccines were, for example. Firefighters and cops, too, are in constant contact with regular people. There's no reason for cops, firefighters and other people who deal regularly with the public, and deal with emergencies should be allowed to avoid being vaccinated. This religious exemption from vaccines is also a ton of bullshit, and shouldn't be allowed, either. Had vaccines and mask wearing been made mandatory for everybody here in the United States who were able to get the vaccines, regardless of their walk of life, etc., we'd be back to normal, or close to it, by now, as a nation.

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Am I correct in understanding that there is a reasonable alternative being offered to those unwilling or unable to become vaccinated?

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What would that look like?

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.

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The reasonable alternative to getting vaccinated is being tested weekly for COVID. That is what the city is offering, is it not?

I understand that the union is objecting to that as well, but let me tell you that some of us spent most of the past year getting tested twice every week by our employer, and are now under a vaccine mandate AND weekly testing. And I'm not upset about it nor do I feel like my human rights are being violated.

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The same alternative to vaccination (weekly testing) is being offered to all city workers, including teachers. I was pleasantly surprised to see the BTU President get out in front of this and support a vaccine mandate for BPS teachers and staff.

It's time to get real.

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The reasonable alternative to getting vaccinated is being tested weekly for COVID. That is what the city is offering, is it not?

They're lucky, then. Given the rapid spread of delta, I'm not at all sure that weekly testing offers adequate protection t the public.

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in the same vein as the indiana university case where justice barrett ruled there’s no basis to overturn a mandate if there’s no injury

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Just getting weekly testings for Covid-19 is not nearly enough. People who refuse to get vaccinated who are able to are not only putting themselves at risk for severe illness and hospitalization and/or death, but are putting other people at risk, also.

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Should be *at least* testing twice per week.

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I think we can all agree that if firefighters showed up to save our lives we wouldn't give a shit if they were vaccinated or not.

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I think we can all agree that if firefighters are dead or intubated or sick or quarantining due to Covid they can’t put out any fires at all. And we kind of need firefighters.

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There have been no FF deaths or crazy hospitalizations - sooo….

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there have been no FF deaths or crazy hospitalizations - sooo….

sooo therefore it can't happen in the future because nothing can change, and no one the infected firefighters came into contact with either died or underwent "crazy hospitalizations".

Of sterling logic such as this are public health catastrophes made.

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Some of these very same firefighters in question are friends of mine. I would give a shit if they were sick or dead from a preventable condition.

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I think we can all agree that this is a completely unnecessary and totally avoidable situation. So let's avoid it, shall we?

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I have heard from a reliable source that in October Local 718 wants to go to the bargaining table and ask for a raise because they are being forced to take their #2 inside the toilet bowl; that's also a human right violation.

Our 1500 or so fulltime firefighter earns a miserly $150-$160k a year to put out some 40 major fires a year. Anissa and I are in full support of our Boston firefighters heroes and we will do whatever it takes to address such indignities!

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Respect for those willing to sacrifice their health and lives to save property and people who are now refusing to sacrifice almost nothing to save health and lives suggests cognitive dissonance or hypocrisy.

I do understand feelong disrespect and the opportunity to throw their weight around as a tactic, but it engenders a lot of disrespect for the profession.

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You can keep working, but no banking services or grocery access for the unvaxxed. Boom; done. We've been patient so far but it's seriously time to just cut off certain sections of society who refuse to get with the program.

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Has you heard of online banking or curbside pickup/delivery for groceries. I hope you didn't spend much time thinking of this genius plan.

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That's the point. Don't want to be arsed to remain disease free? Pick up your groceries at curbside, do all your transactions online, get takeout only, no bars movies concerts or sporting events.

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No, you misunderstood - I'm not saying that the unvaccinated shouldn't be allowed to enter the building. I'm saying that they should be banned from participating in any sort of commerce whatsoever.

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So while BTU President Jessica Tang sold right out to the administration without any hesitate or even trying to bargain, people want to beat up on Local 718 and other unions for doing the right thing for their card carrying members. If I was a BTU member I’d be pretty angry right now. What the mayor is doing is wrong. Just a week ago she was mad at thought of anyone having to produce “papers” because it would bring back the memories of what slaves had to do. So are city employees now slaves? Pretty harsh but they’re not my words, they were the mayor’s words.

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If that's not asinine enough, there are other idiots who are claiming that the idea of anyone having to present proof of having been vaccinated against Covid-19 is reminiscent of what was done in Nazi Germany. That's also a ton of bullshit. For chrissakes, the United States is not Nazi Germany, and, given the fact that the pandemic is still going pretty strong overall, especially in other parts of the country, certain things have to be done that a lot of people don't like, including vaccines, and having to present proof of them in indoor venues.

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Whoever accepts their endorsement does not get my vote.

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