The unions that represent Boston firefighters, police detectives and police superior officers suddenly have major beef with the union that represents police rank and file over the best way to contest Mayor Wu's vaccine mandate, which goes into effect on Saturday.
Yesterday, after news broke that a Suffolk Superior Court judge decided, in a suit brought by the unions representing firefighters. detectives and police superior officers, not to block the start of the vaccine requirement, the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, which represents rank-and-file police officers, and which was not part of the suit, tweeted:
Suffolk Superior Court denies bid by first responders to block Mayor Wu’s vaccine mandate. Said Judge Jeffrey Locke: “The public health emergency outweighs claims of harm by plaintiffs.” Meantime, BPPA continues to bargain in good faith.
The heads of the three unions, on the stationery of Local 718, which represents firefighters, quickly blasted the tweet as "anti union" and accused BPPA President Larry Calderone of shivving union members everywhere. In addition to the tweet, the three union heads accused Calderone of sending a separate, private e-mail message to his members that suggested that "our actions in filing a lawsuit will somehow diminish your bargaining rights at the table."
In their letter, Local 718 president John Soares, superior-officers President Jeanne Carrol and detectives' President Donald Caisey used words to describe Calderone that they would normally reserve for hostile management, such as "anti-labor," "disturbing" and "insulting."
We will not apologize for defending the rights of our members. We will not apologize for filing actions to enforce settlement agreements signed by the City, including those signed by Mayor Wu. The BPPA has repeatedly sought injunctions against the JLMC, municipal police transfers and body-worn cameras. Local 718 did not criticize or judge the BPPA's actions and the two other police unions stood in solidarity. We believe that every union has the right to pursue this option, not just the BPPA.
The BPPA, under your leadership, apparently believes that it is acceptable for the City to ignore agreements that they enter into with their unions. It is evident that the BPPA has taken sides with City Hall. If this is the strategy that the BPPA has chosen to protect its members' collective barraging [sic] rights, it should in no way serve as a criticism of any union who invokes its right to seek relief in the court for an unfair labor practice. Boston Firefighters Local 718, Boston Police Superior Officers Federation and Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society will continue to fight on behalf of the over 2,500 members we proudly represent with or without the support of the BPPA and Larry Calderone.
Earlier today, the BPPA tweeted a clarification:
The attached tweet was never intended to offend. In fact, quite the contrary. It was a point of fact shared to inform our members that, although the injunction by others had been denied, the BPPA effort continues through dialogue and impact bargaining w/the City.
Under the city's new mandate, all employees have to show proof of at least one Covid-19 shot by Saturday. By Feb. 15, all employees will have to prove full vaccination: Two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or one of the J & J vaccine.
City officials say the rapid spread of the omicron variant has rendered the city's earlier agreement with unions to let employees either get vaccinated or submit weekly negative tests untenable in a city where Covid-19 test positivity rates have risen from 0.4% in June to 31% now. With such a fast-spreading variant, weekly testing is no longer enough to protect other city workers and the public with whom employees interact, sometimes in very close contact, officials argue.
As judges have done with similar lawsuits from other public-employee unions, Judge Jeffrey Locke said that while the three unions could continue to pursue their lawsuit, he would not block implementation of the mandate while the case wends its way through court, ruling that the city has a right to take steps to keep itself in operation and that the public-health concerns around a fast spreading, potentially deadly disease outweigh the collective-bargaining rights of union members in this case.