The proposed agreement between Mayor Michelle Wu and the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association went down in flames as union members "overwhelmingly" voted against it just days ahead of the start of enforcement of the city's coronavirus vaccine mandate.
"The membership of the BPPA have spoken overwhelmingly to reject the offer that the city has made to us," Larry Calderone told reporters in a press conference Wednesday night after an all-day vote at the union's Dorchester headquarters. "It is not enough. We clearly deserve more."
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Calderone and other members of the union's bargaining unit had hammered out the ultimately unsuccessful proposed agreement with Wu's administration — making the city's largest cop union, the only one of the various labor groups clashing with the mayor over the impending mandate to have a written offer for members to vote on.
The thumbs-down means the city and the 1,600-member BPPA are back to square one ahead of the start of mandate enforcement next week, with the move coming on a tense day as other groups revived legal action against the city and protestors ran city councilors out of an in-person meeting.
In the end with the patrolmen, nearly 900 of the 1,600-member unit voted, and more than 800 cast their votes against the agreement.
Calderone said he hopes that Wu will "please reconsider" the idea of placing on leave noncompliant police officers next week. He added that about 93% of his members have been vaccinated.
"I would hope and I would beg the mayor to come back with something more advantageous to the members we represent," Calderone said, turning his talk also to the fact that the BPPA's contract with the city has been up since 2020. "Again, surely we deserve it."
The agreement on the mandate would have given union members two new mental health days to use this year, and would have had some protections for people who are fired or quit over the mandate but later come into compliance. In exchange, the union would have agreed not to file grievances over the mandate's enforcement.
A group of first responders and their allies — who have held multiple demonstrations all over the city over the mandate, including at Wu's house — protested outside of the union hall all day against the agreement.
Wu's office said in a statement, "With 95% of Boston police officers vaccinated, it's deeply disappointing that a fringe group pushing conspiracy theories and anti-vax ideology has undermined the collective bargaining process. I'm grateful to the overwhelming majority of city workers who have gotten vaccinated to keep our communities safe. We will continue taking strong steps to protect the health and safety of all our residents during the pandemic."
The already-hot disputes over the vaccine mandates further approached a boiling point on Wednesday on multiple other fronts.
International Association of Firefighters General President Ed "Edzo" Kelly — a Boston jake and former union boss here — returned to town to further decry what he sees as the city's intransigence and unwillingness to come to an agreement.
"I'm joined here this morning by families whose rights are being trampled upon by the Wu administration," Kelly fumed outside of Florian Hall in Dorchester, flanked by Local IAFF 718 boss John Soares and representatives from the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society and Boston Police Superior Officers Federation. "The collective bargaining agreements that they work on that they answer are being violated."
Soares added that his union, which is around the same size as the BPPA, has presented two different deals to the administration that generally would go back to the previous vax-or-test mandate, but, "The city has not been collaborative with us."
Those three unions at the firefighters' press conference continue to negotiate with Wu's office, but say they aren't getting much of anywhere. The three have sued to stop the mandate, but a judge three weeks ago declined to side with them, leading the unions to file an appeal on Wednesday.
The teachers union, which represents the largest collection of city workers, remains in the midst of its own bargaining with the city, seeking to put the implementation of the mandate off to next year for its members.
Wu's deadline for enforcement, already pushed back twice by a week each time, is due to go into effect Monday. If it does so without agreements, the city is on track to place hundreds of workers on leave, likely triggering grievances from the various unions.
Wednesday dawned with protestors at Wu's Roslindale house once again, heckling her as they have on and off for the past several weeks.
In a somewhat new wrinkle, they too headed to City Hall, eventually disrupting a City Council meeting multiple times. On the first occasion, protestors began yelling at the councilors when Covid-19 aid money came up, shouting at them to hold a hearing on the mandates. City Council President Ed Flynn recessed the meeting and most of the councilors left as the maskless protestors yelled continuously.
Eventually, they relented after Flynn told them he and City Councilor Lydia Edwards — who's also now a state senator — would talk to the protestors for 20 minutes after the meeting wrapped up as long as they let it continue.
The protestors quieted down, but erupted again when Flynn told them to put on their masks. Several of them announced that they could not wear masks and they all began to yell again, leading Flynn to again recess the body as protestor Rob Burke yelled about Wu's mandate for for Flynn to "put your big-boy pants on."
This time, they didn't come back — the council took up its meeting remotely, with all of the councilors joining in on video feeds from their offices.
Later in the day, Flynn, who engaged in a couple of testy exchanges with the protestors — some of whom previously had shown up at the Navy vet's house to ask him if he was a "traitor" — said in a statement, "It is disappointing to have had a Boston City Council meeting disrupted today. But during these challenging times for our city and country, it is critically important that we continue to conduct the business of the city and for the residents we serve in a public format."
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