Massachusetts teachers’ union presses the Republican governor for a vaccine mandate.

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U.S.|Massachusetts teachers’ union presses the Republican governor for a vaccine mandate.

Registered nurse Angela Biccolo administered the Moderna Covid vaccine to a school teacher during a clinic for teachers and school administrators at the Rumney March Academy, in Revere, Mass., in March.
Credit...Cj Gunther/EPA, via Shutterstock

Ellen Barry

  • Published Aug. 19, 2021Updated Aug. 20, 2021, 9:59 a.m. ET

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican in a deeply blue state who has so far resisted issuing a mask mandate or vaccination requirement for schools, came under pressure this week for stricter regulations from the state’s largest teachers’ union.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association board of directors voted on Tuesday, 46 to 4, to adopt a vaccine requirement for all eligible students and staff, following up on a unanimous vote August 1 in favor of a mask mandate. The union’s president, Merrie Najimy, noted that Governor Baker has resisted taking these steps.

“Educators and our unions are doing everything in our power to ensure that public schools and colleges can open safely,” she said. “We continue to be alarmed by the failure of state political leaders to follow our example.”

She added, “it’s as if Governor Baker” and other state education officials “have learned nothing over the past year and a half.”

Governor Baker is facing a drumbeat of pressure on masking requirements; some of his fellow Republican governors in conservative states like Texas, Florida and Arizona have put up far stronger resistance, by issuing bans on mask and vaccine mandates.

Polling suggests strong support for a school mask mandate in the state, with 81 percent of Massachusetts voters in favor of the idea, and just 12 percent opposing it, according a survey released Thursday by The MassINC Polling Group.

Governor Baker, a Republican, has said he prefers to leave masking decisions to local officials, who “know these communities best.”

“Different communities are in different places,” he told WGBH, a radio station. “You have some communities in Massachusetts where 85 to 95 percent of all the kids and the middle and high school are vaccinated. You have many other districts in Massachusetts where the numbers are far, far smaller.”

On Thursday afternoon, however, Governor Baker announced a strict vaccine mandate for 42,000 state executive department employees, requiring them to show proof of vaccination by mid-October.

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