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MBTA union latest to lose bid to block vaccine requirement

A Suffolk Superior Court judge has rejected a request from the Boston Carmen's Union to block the MBTA from requiring workers to get Covid-19 shots to keep their jobs.

The ruling against Local 589 is the latest in a string of similar decisions by both state and federal judges denying public unions emergency orders to block the implementation of vaccine requirements while their lawsuits wend through the court system.

The ruling, handed down late last month, does not bode well for the unions representing Boston firefighters and Boston police detectives and superior officers, who have filed a suit with similar reasoning, that the city's vaccine mandate, which starts going into effect next week, is a violation of their collective-bargaining rights.

In his order on the suit by the T workers, Justice David Deakin ruled that, in fact, a vaccine mandate is not subject to collective bargaining, but is "an inherent management right." He cited a similar 1991 case, also involving Local 589, that held management had the right to require drug tests.

He continued that the MBTA requirement only "coerces," but does not force workers who cannot obtain valid medical or religious exemptions to get a shot because if they lose their jobs over their vaccination status, they still have the right to sue individually to get their jobs back. This, he said, shows that the policy does not cause "irreparable harm" as defined by the law.

He also rejected a union argument that the policy is unreasonable because if the T really wanted to fight Covid-19, it would require riders as well as workers to prove they've gotten shots as well. Deakin wrote that while, perhaps, the T could do more to combat the virus, the fact that it does not require riders to get shots does not mean that requiring workers to get shots is "unreasonable." He also rejected the union's contention that the policy is unreasonable because the MBTA waited almost 18 months after the start of the pandemic to require vaccination, writing that the T could hardly have required shots early on when none were available.

But in any case, he continued - as have judges in the cases involving state troopers and prison guards - public health far outweighs any potential collective-bargaining rights.

He noted that the union said it was not arguing the science of vaccination - some 94% of Local 589 members had gotten shots by mid-December. He continued that if that is the case,

It is difficult to see how a policy that compels them to do what is manifestly in the interest of their health and society's harms them at all, much less irreparably.

He concluded:

The MBTA's vaccine policy is a reasonable response to an exceptionally challenging public health emergency. The risk of irreparable harm to MBTA employees and passengers alike - as well as to the broader society - outweighs any harm asserted by the union resulting from that policy.

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Comments

Now that the case has been settled get the jab or get fired. That being said passengers have a responsibility to get the jab also. Watching the video of the Celtics fans brawling on the red line all unmasked while inside a steel tube was disturbing to say the least.

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I expect the union to use some more of its members' funds to appeal the decision, because there is a tiny possibility that some higher court will rule their way.

Interesting the lack of comments on this article vs the Police and Fire article linked where everyone was calling for them all to be fired.

Like one whole person on the police/fire unions story?

Or the one before that, which did not involve unions but rather a group of individuals, that one had 3 distinct people making such calls?

There was more than one commenter calling for them to be fired. And that first comment had 98 thumbs up, but keep splitting those hairs.

Do you not find it odd that there were 38 comments on that article and 2(!) on this one? Maybe I’m just reading too much into it, but I don’t think so.

You said nothing about thumbs up before, so now you're moving goal posts.

This is definitely not a productive use of my time but I'm looking back at those 38 comments over there, and certainly some of that discussion could have happened there, but it already happened over there, so why would it happen again, a week later on this story? It would get kinda boring if we all had the same exact discussions over and over...

Outrage fatigue has set in. Those of us inclined to say 'good riddance' to vaccine deniers have all probably said it at least once. When it starts to feel like repeating ourselves, we stop.

You can only hit your head against a wall so many times before it begins to feel like you are repeating yourself. If your employer mandates a vaccine jab in the interest of public health and you don't get it please don't act surprised when your Union Rep cannot help you. You'll be fired for cause.

If this was a bike vs car post you’d be all over it……

What I’m sensing here is that someone is butt-hurt because people seem to be less upset about bus drivers acting contrary to the public interest than they are about police officers doing the same thing.

Not only do you have a great name, you’re smart too!

...your butt is hurt over what you imagine other people to be thinking?

I don't know why the cop and transit unions are lagging so badly on this.

Did they really think the rules were not going to apply to them?

Other public unions settled this months ago. Sheesh.

The unions aren't really opposed to vaccinations; they're just pretending that it's an issue to try and get some kind of benefit-enhancement out of it. I guess they figure it's worth the effort, even though it's a long shot.

While the Carmen's Union is undoubtedly the largest union at the MBTA, they are not the only one. I don't know if any others have filed similar suit.