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Prison guards sue to block Covid-19 vaccination requirement

The union representing Massachusetts corrections officers today sued the state to try to block an Oct. 17 deadline for state workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or risk punishment and possible job loss.

Unlike state troopers, who lost a similar bid in state court, the corrections officers filed their request for an injunction in Boston federal court. Also unlike state troopers, who claimed the issue was entirely a bargaining-table issue - that the state cannot ask union employees to do something without giving them something in return - the Massachusetts Corrections Officers Federated Union and four individual members say the workers just don't want to get a shot and the state can't make them, so leave them alone.

For various reasons, the individual Plaintiffs wish to exercise their constitutional right to decline this medical treatment, but they also wish to keep their employment and continue their careers.

Forcing the workers to chose between a shot and their jobs is "arbitrary and capricious" and unconstitutional, both because it would violate the contract clause of the US Constitution and because workers have a constitutional right to determine what goes in their bodies, the complaint says.

Also, if the state cares so much about stopping the spread of the disease, the complaint asks, why aren't prisoners being required to get shots?

The Plaintiffs and many of MCOFU’s members spend the vast majority of their work days in the presence of inmates sentenced to the custody of the DOC. The Order does not require that any of those inmates receive the vaccine, and DOC has represented that there are no plans to require inmates to receive the vaccine. They also have families and participate in activities outside of their work that bring them into contact with persons who may transmit the virus to them. The Order does not pertain to any of those potential infectors.

Plus, the union continues, the shots aren't even perfect: Ever hear of "breakthrough" infections? The complaint does not address studies showing that even if less than perfect, the vaccines mean the unvaccinated have death rates 11 times that of the vaccinated.

Requiring that DOC employees receive the vaccine thus does not guarantee that employees do not get sick and die from the virus, and it does not insure or guarantee that inmates or fellow employees will not become infected through contact with DOC employees.

The union says that its current contract actually has a clause about "contagious disease" - and that nothing in it allows the state to punish members who don't get a shot, as well as another section that requires "final and binding arbitration before a disinterested third party" before a member can be fired without "just cause," which the union says vaccination is not, and that members have the right to appeal any firing to the state Civil Service Commission.

The suit alleges the Department of Corrections was able to mitigate Covid-19 just fine without vaccines last year through such methods as mask wearing and social distancing - and this year by offering voluntary vaccines to employees and prisoners who want them. The complaint does not add that the Supreme Judicial Court enacted rules last year aimed at reducing the number of people detained in state prisons in part because of the difficulties of ensuring social distancing in a prison.

PDF icon Complete complaint175.1 KB

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I would want to be vaccinated for Covid, and a lot of other things.

Voting closed 28

COVID doesn't spread in Massachusetts prisons.



Voting closed 14

Last year correction officers, nurses, grocery clerks, truck drivers, bus drivers, nursing home aides were called heroes for willing to risk their lives during the worst of the pandemic. I believe that they all should get vaccinated but I don't believe they should be terminated for not getting the zap.

Voting closed 24

Seems pretty unfair for Burger King to fire me after I repeatedly refused!

Seriously what part of “public” health is so hard to understand?

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Those who scream get vaxxed or else can be so short sighted it’s not funny. I remember clapping at 7pm every night for these same people they’re throwing out now.

Voting closed 12


And it isn't "or else" it is "or else you cannot participate in activities where your CHOICE to not be vaccinated will endanger others".

Nobody is holding people down and jabbing them. But don't expect other people to celebrate your stupidity or let you spread disease needlessly either.

CHOICES HAVE CONSEQUENCES, HONEY! Enjoy the consequences that you choose.

Voting closed 13


Voting closed 18

Another IQ test to remain employed.

I hope this comes back with the same results as in 1905: nobody is forcing you to be vaccinated, they are just making it a condition of employment and choices have consequences.

Given the environment that they work in, they should be happy that they don't have to get a gob of military spec "peanut butter" in their rear end.

Voting closed 20

That you don’t believe in free choice. Does the vaccines work? Yes. Is COVID a death sentence, or even a hospital visit guarantee for lots of people? No. It’s just the simple. Instead of screaming get vaccinated, tell people to get healthy. That works better than a vaccine since we know obesity and existing conditions are the biggest driver of death and hospitalization.

Voting closed 19

They just don't necessarily have the choice to not get vaccinated and still keep their job. In the same way of countless other requirements that you have to follow at work, up to and including the vaccine mandates that have been required for many jobs for decades!

Voting closed 15

Please read the Supreme Court Decision from 1905 on the subject. https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/197/11.html

You aren't being forced to be vaccinated - you have a choice to remain unvaccinated. But CHOICES HAVE CONSEQUENCES. You don't get the benefits that the vaccinated get when you choose not to be vaccinated. Just like you aren't allowed to drive if you choose not to get a driver's license.

If you can't smarten up, please grow up, and man up to the consequences of your choices.

Voting closed 11

..give you immunity. Except for US military uniforms of course. US military uniform wearers are required to get every vaccine ever created. Even the one for triskaidekaphobia which is my favorite military fiction trope. /s

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