John Soares, president of Boston Firefighters’ Union Local 718, called it a “good day for labor.”
Donald Caisey, president of the Boston Police Detective’s Benevolent Society, said the unions are ready to sit down and negotiate with the Wu administration on pandemic-related demands on the city’s workforce.
“We are ready to go,” he said.
On Tuesday, Judge Sabita Singh given injunction blocking Wu’s administration from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for workers from three municipal unions until the two sides have found a solution at the negotiating table or state labor authorities decide the matter. On Wednesday, Wu said in an interview on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio” that the city would probably appeal the ruling.
“This decision really goes against so much of what we’ve seen in court,” Wu said. “City governments, state and local governments have the authority to demand vaccination in the midst of a public health emergency. I am disappointed with where we are now in this.”
The decision represented a blow to Wu’s vaccination mandate, a policy that has dominated her early tenure in the fifth-floor corner of City Hall.
Just weeks into her new tenure, Wu announced in December that she was demanding that the city’s more than 19,000 workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 to help curb the spread of the virus and protect the public. In her announcement, she said she wanted to do away with a weekly COVID testing opportunity, which was originally introduced by her predecessor, then-acting mayor Kim Janey.
A spokesman for Wu said Tuesday that the mayor’s administration is disappointed with the appellate court’s decision and that Wu’s team is “reviewing it carefully.”
The unions have meanwhile accused Wu of ignoring collective agreements that Janey made with working groups last year. They say it is wrong of the mayor to make vaccination a condition of employment in the city.
Singh’s order applies only to the trio of unions that filed the lawsuit against the city – Boston Firefighters Union Local 718, Boston Police Superior Officers Federation and Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society – and not to other municipal unions.
These three unions have an open case currently under consideration the State Department of Labor Relations regarding the city’s vaccination mandate.
State the labor authorities recently convicted in favor of Governor Charlie Baker, allowing him to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for state troops without going to the negotiating table first, and to fire those who do not comply. Like Wus’ mandate, Baker’s vaccine requirements for employees of the state executive department does not allow testing instead of inoculation.
But Kelly said there was a big difference between the Boston unions ‘fight with Wu and the troops’ spit on Baker: “We had a signed collective agreement” with the city that gave members a test opportunity.
Earlier this week It reported Police that New York City fired 1,430 municipal employees after they refused to be fully vaccinated for COVID or submit evidence of their shots. The New York City requirement does not allow testing instead of jabs.
On Wednesday, local public health experts supported Wu’s central argument that vaccines are a crucial component in protecting the public in the midst of the pandemic.
Vaccinated people can actually get and spread the virus, said Barry Bloom, professor emeritus and former dean of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. But vaccines still serve a significant purpose in addition to reducing an infected person’s risk of serious illness, hospitalization, or death.
“The amount of virus in vaccinated individuals is remarkably less than in unvaccinated individuals,” Bloom said. “We’re talking somewhere about two-thirds less likely to transmit infection.”
Bloom said vaccine mandates help not only vaccinated people, but also vulnerable people they can interact with, such as children under the age of 5 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine; immunocompromised people who may not develop much protection against shots; and others who, for one reason or another, have not been able to get shots.
“There are very few things in this life that are perfect and vaccines are not perfect,” Bloom said. “Reducing transmission, illness, hospitalization and death is a public health benefit.”
Tests and vaccines are both important public health tools, but they work best together, said Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, Professor of Biology at Boston College and Director of the Program for Global Public Health and the Common Good.
“They serve separate purposes,” Landrigan said. “The vaccine creates antibodies that protect people from disease. Testing tells you that a person does not have a virus in their nose today. “
COVID vaccines may not perfectly prevent humans from transmitting the virus. But they are very effective in preventing serious illness, he said, and that should not be ruled out.
“The basic principle is that we all, judges and everyone else, are that this vaccine is extraordinarily effective in keeping people out of the hospital and preventing death,” Landrigan said.