Union: Arbitrator Ruling a Victory for Massachusetts Troopers Over “Tyranny”

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Sam Doran
State House News Service

The president of the State Police union took a victory lap Monday morning after an arbitrator ruled in favor of seven troopers who had remained on unpaid leave after claiming a religious exemption from mandated COVID-19 vaccination two years ago.

Against a backdrop of the State House with the governor’s office over his shoulder, State Police Association of Massachusetts President Patrick McNamara celebrated a win over “tyranny” and what he termed “Charlie Baker’s Draconian executive order” requiring vaccinations for executive branch employees. Gov. Maura Healey rescinded Baker’s vaccination policy for most state employees in May.

“Many of these brave men and women standing with us today were found to have sincerely held religious beliefs that were not only violated by Baker, but treated with disdain, ridicule, and ultimately suspended without pay,” McNamara said.

Independent arbitrator Bonnie McSpiritt ruled Friday that the Department of State Police violated anti-discrimination sections of the union members’ contract “when it denied the religious exemption requests of the eight State Police Association of Massachusetts members who [the department] determined had [a sincerely held religious belief], but then asserted it could not accommodate them because of undue hardship.”

Seven troopers — Paul Aten, Jessie Barbosa, Christopher Dolan, David Hanafin, Joseph Hanafin, Patrick Irwin, and Lance Reed — now have a two-week window to decide whether they want to return to work at the agency, where McSpiritt directed they are able to return to their previous positions and receive full back pay. The SPAM president said the seven were “still contemplating” their decision. An eighth officer covered by the case, Trooper First Class Luke Bonin, had already returned to work, according to the arbitration ruling. McSpiritt found he is also eligible for back pay from his suspension period.

McNamara cited the cases of 13 union members who were “terminated and labeled with a dishonorable discharge” related to the vaccine mandate and said the union’s efforts around the vaccine mandates are “far from finished.” Their separate arbitration case is coming up this fall, and attorney Leah Barrault said she was “confident” that “the outcome is going to be the same” for them. McNamara said “some” of the affected troopers were present at the press conference, but that under State Police policy they were not able to speak to the press.

About Michael Silvia

Served 20 years in the United States Air Force. Owner of New Bedford Guide.

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5 comments

  1. What a ‘cop out’, no pun intended. What happens when an infected trooper responds to your emergency? Who is liable, the religion? So much for public safety from public safety officers. I hope at least they did a background check to see if these troopers have been taking charitable deductions for support of their religions!

  2. Many things Baker did I supported. This was not one. The troopers should have been allowed to work if only with the compromise of when approaching a person they’d need face masking and gloving up if the patient was unable to. If it were the troopers choice not to mask up fine but if the patient couldn’t then the trooper should have been mandated. Not mandate the vaccine. They should return to work and they should get back pay. The problem is the troopers should have never been forced to leave the job due to declining the vaccine. I myself have had all vaccines. I still mask and glove while in stores and busy places. My husband choose to do the same. Had he not, it would have been on him if contracted. Although we practice constantly gloved and masked my husband contracted covid January 2023. 2 co workers had it. One was out 3 weeks and one stayed working. Yet neither one told my husband they had it. The troopers are to protect and serve, not vaccine to keep the job. Thank you all troopers for what you do. Be safe.

  3. Religious exemptions for vaccination are baloney. Variolation was discovered in the 8th or 9th century and was used by both Muslim and Jewish physicians from about the 12th century on. The overwhelming majority of Christians get vaccinations and there is nothing in either the Old or New Testaments prohibiting them because they hadn’t yet been developed when either set of scriptures were written. The sociopaths who claim “sincere religious belief “ are dishonoring both the Constitution as well as real religious tenets when they hide behind religion to evade social responsibility. Double that for cops.

  4. In the days when the United States still had the draft, conscientious objectors had to jump through all sorts of hoops to prove their religious objections to war and killing were sincere. I would like to see these parasites submit the same sort of documentation and have a supervisor see how “religious” these people really are. I’d be willing to bet that we’d discover guys going to gentleman’s clubs and on fishing trips rather than sitting in a pew on Sunday.

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