BART approves mandatory employee COVID vaccines, but not all on board

BART says it is still working out what the "repercussions" would be for those who don't want to be vaccinated.

Laura Anthony Image
ByLaura Anthony KGO logo
Saturday, October 16, 2021
Pushback after BART approves mandatory employee COVID vaccines
BART employees will now be required to get fully vaccinated against coronavirus, but not all workers are on board.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- BART employees will now be required to get fully vaccinated against coronavirus. The new policy goes into effect in mid-December, but what's unclear is whether there will be a testing option and what will happen to those who refuse to get the shots.

RELATED: 120 SFPD officers could lose their jobs over vaccine mandate

BART is now going the way of many other public agencies and private companies, with a decision to require its nearly 4,000 employees to get vaccinated.

As it is now, about 80 percent of BART's employees are fully vaccinated, but that leaves 833 who are not, or their vaccine status is unknown.

"That's why it's so important, because we need to protect the health and safety of our workers and BART riders," said BART Board Director Rebecca Saltzman.

BART's board voted to require vaccines, but left the details to BART's general manager and administration to work out with each of the transit district's many unions.

VIDEO: Dozens protest new San Jose vaccine mandate for city employees starting Oct. 1

The City of San Jose will begin to enforce a stricter vaccine mandate for all city employees starting on October 1. Many workers are pushing back.

Employees will have until December 13 to get fully vaccinated, unless they have a narrowly defined religious or health exemption.

In public comments at Thursday's board meeting, at least one member of the the BART Police Officer's Association voiced his objections to a COVID vaccine mandate.

"This is a medical decision for individuals to make and it shouldn't be a condition for continued employment," said the man who described himself as a BART Police Officer. "For any other healthcare question we're encouraged to get a second opinion."

RELATED: Unsupported claims blame Southwest cancelations on pilot 'sickout' over vaccine mandates

One BART director objects to the mandate, without at least the option for employees to get regularly tested if they're not vaccinated.

"Even the Biden Administration's proposal has a testing options that's working through OSHA now," said BART Director Debora Allen. "So does the state worker proposal, has a testing option. I think that would've been the next step."

The board's vote on Thursday is a policy decision. It still has to be worked out with BART's various unions. What's still unclear is what happens to those employees who don't have an exemption, but still refuse to get vaccinated.

"So management and the labor unions will be working on what would be the repercussions for those who aren't vaccinated," said Saltzman.

So far, Muni is the only other major transit agency in the Bay Area to make vaccines mandatory.