Police Union Sues Over Vaccine Mandate, Demand COVID Deaths Be Considered 'Line of Duty'

The Massachusetts state trooper's union is pushing back on Governor Charlie Baker's requirement that all officers get vaccinated against COVID-19 and demanded those who are injured or killed from the virus receive additional financial compensation.

Baker's executive order, which was issued in August, required all state employees not claiming a medical or religious exemption to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 17. It prompted backlash from several unions, and the one representing troopers from the Massachusetts State Police has argued the governor has to negotiate terms with the union that should include the option for troopers to wear a mask and undergo weekly testing.

At a hearing on Wednesday, Paul Hynes, an attorney for the State Police Association of Massachusetts, argued that the case is not about the validity of vaccine mandates, WCVB reported. Hynes said about 20 percent of troopers aren't vaccinated, but said the lawsuit was a "labor case."

During a meeting with John Langan, the state's chief negotiator, the State Police Association of Massachusetts presented "reasonable alternatives" to the governor's order. Along with allowing unvaccinated members of the union to be tested and wear a mask, the union called for members to be given "presumptive protection," according to the lawsuit.

If that is granted, anyone who contracts COVID, becomes ill from getting vaccinated, is forced to retire or dies of COVID-19 would be considered to have had a "line-of-duty injury." The designation could come with additional financial benefits for members, WBUR reported.

At a subsequent meeting, Langan rejected the union's proposals, according to the lawsuit, claiming they were unable to deviate from Baker's executive order.

massachusetts police vaccine mandate lawsuit
The State Police Association of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit in the hopes of pausing a mandate that requires all state troopers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Demonstrators gathered outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston to protest COVID-19 vaccination and mask mandates. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

The State Police Association of Massachusetts, which represents about 1,800 state police officers who have reached the rank of State Police Trooper, State Police Trooper First Class and State Police Sergeant, filed a lawsuit on Friday in the hopes of putting a pause on the policy.

Given that two of the three available vaccinations require two doses set three weeks apart, the union noted a failure to suspend the order means members will have to choose whether to get vaccinated or be terminated. The union accused the government of not bargaining "in good faith."

Newsweek reached out to the State Police Association of Massachusetts for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Ahead of filing the lawsuit, the State Police Association of Massachusetts expressed concerns about Baker's executive order and expected him to "identify meaningful alternatives for those with concerns about receiving the vaccine." Michael Cherven, president of the union, told the Boston Globe the mandate was a "surprise" and "crudely done." He added that it was compiled with "no input from any association" and "hurried."

The police union wasn't the only association to take issue with the executive order. The union that represents prison guards and other correctional officials threatened legal actions calling it a failure to uphold members' "individual rights."

"This fight is not over. It is just the beginning. We urge the Governor to reconsider this mandate, and at WORST, to continue with a plan that allows for voluntary vaccination or regular testing," the union said in a statement after the executive order was announced.

At Wednesday's hearing, Jennifer Greaney, an attorney for the state, argued that there must be situations, including the current pandemic, where the government can "implement a deadline for policies."