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'We Deserve To Be Treated Better': Boston Firefighters Push Back Against COVID Vaccine Mandate

BOSTON (CBS) - Boston firefighters are among the city employees who have to provide documentation on their vaccination status Friday, but instead they're fighting back, calling the mayor anti-labor.

"We deserve to be treated better and deserve to be treated fairly," said Edward Kelly, president of the International Association of Firefighters. The union says their contract allows weekly testing for firefighters who refuse to get vaccinated, an option eliminated by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu who says the first dose has to be administered by Monday.

"We could test our members who had strongly held beliefs and that would protect the citizens of Boston, and in fact it did," said Kelly.

Lt. John Nee has filed for a religious exemption from vaccination, along with some 600 city employees seeking exemptions. "It's my religious belief that I don't want something injected into my body," said Nee. He's now fearful of losing his job. "It's devastating for my family, my wife, my children, it's very stressful for all of us."

The union claims on Monday more than 100 firefighters in their ranks could face unpaid leave, putting a strain on the city. "It absolutely has the potential to impact our ability to answer 911 calls and serve the public. It puts a strain on our system," said Kelly.

Mayor Wu has stood firm and got the backing last week of a superior court judge to mandate vaccines. But the union believes it has a strong case with the Labor Department that collective bargaining has been violated.

John Nee says he's never tested positive. "Test me weekly once or twice and I would pay for it," he said.

In a statement Mayor Wu said: "During this pandemic, we all have an obligation to keep Boston safe through prioritizing the health of our communities at large."

About 90% of Boston firefighters have been vaccinated and Fire Commissioner John Dempsey says he's "confident there will be no interruption of service due to the vaccine requirement."

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