The head of the Boston firefighters union is telling members tonight that the union will give the bargaining table one last try but if the city refuses to yield on mandatory vaccinations - or offer the union something decent in return - "we are prepared to take our fight to the street."
Still, even though veteran bare-knuckle brawler Edzo Kelly, the former local leader who now heads the International Association of Fire Fighters, is working the phones lobbying city, state and federal elected officials to convince them to put pressure on the Wu administration, current Local 718 President John Soares says this will be a kinder, gentler mass protest - no standing outside the mayor's house yelling on bullhorns about Hitler or taunting her kids that they'll grow up without a mother, not like that group headed by that police sergeant. And definitely no spitting on the mayor's spouse this time.
Local 718 does not endorse any behavior that rises to the level of violence or personal disrespect to Mayor Wu’s family or neighbors. Our protests will be exclusively organized by Boston Firefighters Local 718 and attended by Local 718 members and their families. The actions of any outside organizations or associations that may also have an issue with Mayor Wu should not be aligned with our labor dispute. We, as a union, need to be cognizant of this, considering the emotional response this mandate has generated.
A Suffolk Superior Court judge last week denied a request from Local 718 and two police unions, although not the one that represents patrol officers, to block the city from requiring employees to show proof of vaccination and to drop an earlier agreement to let anti-vax employees show weekly Covid-19 test results. Judge Jeffrey Locke ruled that public-health concerns outweigh collective-bargaining rights, in this case in the way the city decided to require the shots without first bargaining over the issue.
Still, City Hall told the unions on Friday it would delay any enforcement from this past Saturday to Jan. 24 to allow for bargaining-table negotiations.
Local 718 has a member meeting scheduled for Jan. 20, at which Soares says he hopes to be able to update firefighters on the status of those negotiations and whether the union will need to put more pressure on the city through respectful public protests. In his e-mail to members, Soares said respect is called for among members as well:
I am asking our members to be respectful to each other at this week’s union meeting. I understand the passion that this issue has generated and the severity of the consequences for not being vaccinated, but we must not allow this issue to fracture our solidarity.