BART Board of Directors establishes COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees

photo of a BART train
Nora Povejsil/Staff
BART Board of Directors approved a policy which mandates all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, except those with reasonable accommodations and religious exemptions.

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On Thursday, the BART Board of Directors voted to approve a policy requiring all BART employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 13.

The policy states this decision was made out of the belief that BART has a duty to create a safe workplace that follows COVID-19 public health guidance and legal requirements in order to protect employees and members of the public using the services.

“I have such tremendous respect and appreciation for our front line workers,” said Bevan Dufty, member of the BART Board of Directors, in the board meeting. “I cannot allow us to continue and not recognize the importance of being vaccinated.”

Sal Cruz, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Local 3993, said that employees and union leaders are working together to figure out how to move forward with the policy and added that partnering with their employer will be very important.

According to the policy, the Board of Directors has directed the BART general manager to bargain over the policy before Dec.13.

Cruz said it is currently unclear how unvaccinated employees will be dealt with.

“This policy was created out of the need to eliminate the spread of COVID amongst our workforce, recognize that federal and state mandates are forthcoming, and put all of our focus on recovering our lost ridership and rebuilding the system,” Cruz said in an email.

According to James Allison, a BART spokesperson, 833 out of approximately 3,900 employees were unvaccinated as of Thursday.

Debora Allen, member of the BART Board of Directors, was the sole member to vote against the policy. During their meeting, she said the policy should include a testing option for workers.

Several individuals shared similar concerns about the policy during the meeting.

Cruz said many employees feel concerned that their individual rights are being violated, and said some alternatives proposed include a weekly testing option or flexible work arrangements.

According to the policy, the only exceptions to the mandate are if an employee has a reasonable accommodation or a religious exemption.

Cruz said he hopes that BART and labor unions will be able to come to a reasonable agreement in the coming weeks.

“I don’t want to see any employee lose their job – many departments in my unit are already understaffed and we don’t want to make this any worse,” Cruz said in an email.

Diego Lapayese-Calderón is a general assignment reporter. Contact him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @diego_lapayese.