Steamship Authority adopts vaccine mandate

Employees offered up to $500 incentive to get vaccine.

The Steamship Authority implemented a vaccine mandate for employees in January of 2022. — MV Times

Union and nonunion employees of the Steamship Authority will be required to have at least one vaccination against COVID-19 by Jan. 5 or face progressive consequences. The deadline for full vaccination is Feb. 16.

In response to questions posed by The Times at the ferry line’s port council meeting Tuesday morning, SSA general manager Robert Davis acknowledged a vaccination mandate had been initiated. 

“We’ve been following the governor’s order involving vaccination requirements for state workers,” Davis said. “We’re also cognizant of the president’s order regarding employers with over 100 employees. And we also understand that the potential for future federal funding will be tied to having a mandate.”

Davis said the SSA has been working with the unions it encompasses to roll out the mandate. 

“Tomorrow, with the start of the winter schedule, is the date that we have targeted in terms of putting the mandate in place,” Davis said. “We’ve offered numerous vaccination clinics for our employees. We encourage them to be getting vaccinated. If they have a religious or medical reason not to, they need to provide us with documentation in that regard, and that will be reviewed by a third party.”

When asked what the consequences would be for failure to comply with the mandate, Davis said it would depend on the particular union contract at play as to “whether they have the ability to take a leave of absence or not.”

SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll later told The Times employees would be “subject to progressive discipline up to and including termination.”

Driscoll noted that out of approximately 700 SSA employees, about 65 percent are fully vaccinated. 

Davis noted the governor’s order came out this summer, but it took time for the SSA to review, and it had been subject to some legal challenges that failed. 

“[T]his fall we started to discuss the rollout of the vaccination requirements with the unions,” Davis said.

Moments after the port council meeting ended, Driscoll sent out a press release on the mandate. Per the release, the SSA is providing an “incentive of up to $500 per employee” to encourage vaccination.

Driscoll later told The Times the monetary incentive isn’t dedicated to employees who get vaccinated due to the mandate the ferry line enacted. Any employee who has been vaccinated qualifies for the money, he said, even if they were vaccinated a year ago. The money is drawn from the SSA general fund, he said, and is doled out in amounts commensurate with the amount of work (full-time or part-time) an employee does. 

“Although it is within the Authority’s management rights to implement this policy,” the release states, “the Authority continues to be in active negotiations with seven of its eight bargaining units regarding the matter. It has secured a Memorandum of Understanding with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents the Authority’s reservation clerks, and continues to work toward agreements with employees represented by the Teamsters and the Marine Engineers Beneficiary Association.” 


A union on vaccinations

SEIU Local 888 president Tom McKeever told The Times he and his team have been negotiating on behalf of the 8,000 people statewide who are in the union. Attempts to gain ground with the governor’s office have so far failed, as have various legal challenges to mandates, McKeever said. McKeever pointed to the city of Boston as a potential breakthrough spot for bargaining. SEIU is one of several unions represented in the SSA workforce. McKeever said SEIU had been in impact negotiations with the city of Boston over the subject of mask mandates, and had worked to promote alternative methods of health accountability and management, like weekly testing and creation of a “COVID bank” similar to earned sick time or vacation time. This never reached fruition with former Acting Mayor Kim Janey, McKeever said. McKeever said 100 union employees are facing termination, and the situation has become a case-by-case grievance process. McKeever, who sounded hopeful, said the union will enter impact negotiations with Boston Mayor Michelle Wu on Friday. Even with negotiations on the horizon, McKeever said 90 percent of SEIU Local 888 is fully or partially vaccinated. 

McKeever said the union is focused on job retention, and that most often “the pathway to do that is receiving vaccination.”

McKeever said he’s yet to hear from the union members at the SSA. “I would welcome any thoughts or comments they may have,” he said.

Other union leaders representing SSA employees were not immediately available for comment.


  1. How is this ok? Full disclosure, I am fully vaccinated and boosted. I believe in the vaccine but understand why an individual would not want it. For example, MVYPS does not require its employees to be vaccinated and they work much more closely with the public than the SSA employees do. I have no problem with that. We are losing more and more of our freedoms every day. Pathetic.

    • Mike– I do not understand why a healthy individual would refuse this vaccine.
      I have not heard a single argument that in my opinion, has any rational reason .
      Does anyone want to explain it to me ?
      I am open to hearing any reason why.

      I am happy the Steamship is requiring a vaccination. It certainly doesn’t seem like an infringement on our freedoms to me.
      If anything, I feel that my freedoms are being infringed upon by the anti vaxers. The 30 % who refuse to get vaccinated are clearly responsible for the situation we are in. Of course we would still have covid, but the numbers would be at a manageable level. We won’t get to zero cases for years, if ever.

      • Nonsense. Vaxxers are getting Covid left and right. The vaccine does not prevent the illness nor the transmission. Follow the science and facts.

        • If you took the time out of reading Insurrectionist Daily, you would also notice that the folks who are vaccinated and boosted who do get Covid, are by and large not having bad experiences with the virus. You folks act like if anyone vaccinated gets the virus, that validates all of your preposterous claims. It does not. That is how vaccinations work. It would be amusing to witness this if people with this viewpoint weren’t causing so much damage in the world.

        • Vaxxers are indeed “getting Covid left and right.” They are not largely becoming critically ill or dying. Those people who are unvaccinated are the ones jamming the hospitals and critical care units, leaving them unavailable to people with other life-threatening problems — heart attacks, strokes, bad accidents, etc. It is time that anti-vaxxers who are in the minority stopped their mostly incomprehensible reluctance and stopped holding the rest of the world hostage.

        • John– for years we have been hearing from the right about how this is “just a little flu”. Just because some people wish it was that simple doesn’t make it so. As we push rapidly towards a million dead Americans from this it is obvious that the right was wrong– However. if you actually follow the science and the facts, you will find that the vaccines have, in effect, turned a lethal virus into “just a little flu” — for the vaccinated that is. For the unvaccinated, it’s still a serious problem. As such, it is creating a serious problem for the medical infrastructure, as hospitals are being overrun with the unvaxxed.
          Or do you think that’s a lie ?
          Tell you what ; you give me the links to your bubble gum wrappers and show me a few post’s by some teenager who dropped out of school and lives in his mom’s basement, and I will send you links to the CDC the world health organization, the department of homeland security , health and human services, the department of defense and perhaps statistics from 20 randomly selected hospitals around the country.
          If you need a little more, I can document statistics from just about every sovereign nation on the planet.
          That way, we can have an open and honest discussion about the science and the facts.
          And then, once we have all that clear, perhaps we could follow the science and the facts..

        • What percent of the hospitalized for Covid are fully vaccinated?
          Follow the science.
          Nothing is perfect for everything.
          Not even Jesus.
          God made man falable.

    • It’s not OK to work with the public and not be vaccinated.
      No one is required to be vaccinated anymore than someone is required to work.

    • Vaccine mandates are good public health measures; nothing more, nothing less. We mandate that infants get vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella. Does this rob them, and their parents, of their freedom? Perhaps, but it’s also good for their health.

      We mandate that young children get tested for blood-lead-levels before entering kindergarten. Does this rob them, and their parents, of their freedom? Perhaps, but it’s also good for their health.

      We do not allow smoking inside buildings, or airplanes, anymore. Does this rob smokers of their freedom? Perhaps, but it does so for the good of public health. Same questions; same answers.

    • Riding the ferry is absolutely terrifying these days with maskless employees running amok. Suggest a worker to “please mask up” and all one gets is a smirk.

      • Fire them?

        I hope they quit for their rights being infringed upon. See how quickly this island turns around their “mandate”

        • There is no shortage of people waiting to get on the SSA gravy train.
          Get the jab for the big bucks.

        • Jason- I think if a bunch of these people quit that would be fine.
          I am sure that 4 people can direct cars and sit around just as well as 6 can.
          I hear Florida or Texas could use a few more patriots.
          They’re just dying to be free down there.

  2. We have no choice but to get on those boats. It’s shocking that one in every three staff we interact with remain unvaccinated. Get the shot and stop putting vulnerable people at risk.

  3. Mike Ack….Would you rather lose your job or possibly lose your life??? I guess that’s a tough choice for the SSA workers, huh? They’re not losing their liberties… they’re being good citizens by getting all 3 shots and masking up as well. The SSA is right in mandating Covid precautions…..Don’t fight it…Just do it!!!

    • Like I said, I have no problem with the vaccine. How can you require someone to put an unknown substance with unknown long term side effects into their body? That doesn’t sound like much liberty to me. Ridiculous

      • This country has been requiring that for probably 100 years! Children MUST be vaccinated to go to school and that includes YOU! This argument is absolutely ridiculous.

    • A “covid precaution” is requiring and enforcing masks and distancing. A vaccine mandate is against our rights as Americans and ridiculous.

      • Mandates aren’t new in the USA, you have lived with them your entire life. If you believe this is taking away your freedom you have never been free. Get over it and do the right thing so we can get past this nonsense.

  4. Mike Ack….Would you rather lose your job or possibly lose your life??? I guess that’s a tough choice for the SSA workers, huh? They’re not losing their liberties… they’re being good citizens by getting all 3 shots and masking up as well. The SSA is right in mandating Covid precautions…..Don’t fight it…Just do it!!!

  5. John Axel, the science and the facts are that no vaccine is 100% effective. The COVID vaccines are effective but with so much community transmission out there, people are exposed over and over, and some get breakthrough cases. Those cases are generally much less severe than COVID is in non-vaccinated people. The vaccines do work.
    I am fully vaccinated and boosted. People who won’t get the vaccine are not just affecting their own lives, they hurt everyone- look at how full the hospitals are, elective surgeries postponed. Look at how our economy is struggling with workers out sick or quarantined.
    If the SSA employees on the ferry refused to get emergency training to save lives if the boat sinks, what do you think would happen?

  6. The crews of the Steamship are exposed to thousands of people everyday. They have been coughed upon, sneezed upon, spat upon, bled upon, and any other thing you can think of.

    If anyone could develop a natural immunity by now they would.
    Most of them received the initial vaccines when we didn’t know what would happen with them.
    We don’t need to be afraid of the crew. The crews need to be afraid of us.

    Clearly though, anyone on the boats who is unvaccinated at this point is truly nuts.

  7. Unless you are 100% sure that this vaccine is 100% safe for 100% of those who take it (you aren’t), you have no moral right to force or coerce it on anyone. Choosing to do so is an evil action. You can strongly recommend it. You can explain why you think the benefits are worth the drawbacks and/or risks. What you can’t do – if you want to stay on the right side of morality,- is impose a negative consequence for making the ‘wrong’ choice. That is coercion.

    • The science is there. The vaccine has been tested many times over. If a person feels unsafe or has questions, they can ask their medical professionals about what they should do regarding Covid precautions.

      Liberty in the USA requires that you act responsibly for the good of all. As a citizen one needs to think of others, and make an effort to help out where they can in spite of their personal beliefs. I don’t love wearing this damned mask, but I do it to protect both me and you. No one likes getting shots, but again, if it keeps you and me safe from the ravages of Covid, it’s a good thing even if it’s not 100% effective.

    • Looks like someone thinks the US Army is immoral and evil. Nice.

      What sounds immoral and evil to me is failing to act responsibly toward others unless you’re paid $500.

      There isn’t a vaccine on the planet that is guaranteed safe for everyone, yet all schools, camps, armed services, etc require them. Unless you’re legitimately medically exempt, there’s always the phony baloney religious exemption for the selfish and ignorant who refuse to do the moral thing.

      • Jackie– I think more people than Andy think the U.S military is immoral and evil . And not because they require vaccinations.
        I must have gotten 20 vaccinations when I was in the navy.
        I don’t remember whining about it… Nor do I remember any of my fellow servicepersons whining about it.

    • Let’s take this line of reasoning to it’s logical conclusion. Are seatbelts 100% effective, 100% of the time? No. Sometimes they cause people to die. Therefore seatbelt laws are immoral. I could go on but, you get the picture. How did the ideas of “freedom” and “morality” get so twisted in this country?

    • Andy– Of course there are no guarantees about anything being 100 % certain.
      Just a few examples you may relate to.
      Donald trump won the presidential election in 2016.
      More than 1,000 Americans have died from covid.
      Tesla is not bankrupt.
      Why do you profess to need 100% certainty ?
      Are you 100% certain the plane you are on will not crash ?
      May I suggest to you that you not fly (particularly in third world countries) because there is not a 100% chance you will survive your flight ? Your 100% argument is ridiculous , and you know it.
      On the flip side–
      Can you guarantee that there is a zero % chance that an unvaxxed steamship worker will not contract covid and infect a passenger ? And that that passenger will not die ?
      If not, then the “moral” thing to do is to take every precaution possible to protect the sanctity of life. A free covid jab provided by the socialist government ( how else could it be free ? ) is the quickest, cheapest , and most effective way to protect the lives of the innocent..
      You talk about morality.
      It is morally reprehensible to put others at risk.

  8. It’s tragic and speaks volumes about our lack of compassion, respect and community that individual freedom remains the center of this argument.

    What about the common good? Protecting those with fragile health? Respecting the foot soldiers, otherwise known as health care providers? There was a time when people would sacrifice individuality for the common good instead of acting like selfish 3 year olds who need a time out.

  9. Two thoughts: the mandate(s) to get vaccinated is not “vaccine or die!” If it were, the ‘infringement of personal liberty’s argument might have legs. But it isn’t and it doesn’t. The mandate in this and essentially all cases is “if you are going to work *here* and do *this* job, in order to protect your coworkers/customers/patients etc you will be required to get vaccinated and thereby mitigate your chance of spreading this disease to others to the fullest extent possible. If you don’t want to do that, you are FREE to *not work HERE*.” Nobody is going to strap you down… mandates aren’t employers forcibly protecting their employees. They are protecting all the people each employee interacts with. The SSA has an obligation to provide a safe environment for its customers, first and foremost.
    It never, evvvver gets mentioned, so here goes: there is a tiny population of people who, medically, CANNOT get vaccinated. The immunocompromised people you haven’t seen in two years. Transplant recipients are the most commonly known, but the chronically ill often fall in this category too. Not only are we unable to have the protection a vaccine would provide, we are magnets for infection. And we think it would be fantastic if a whole lot of people would stop being so selfish and so willfully misinformed. Getting vaxxed+boosted cuts not only your chances of getting this disease (and therefore the ability to spread it to others) but if you do get a breakthrough infection it is likely to be mild and able to be weathered at home… not the ICU, not the morgue.
    I take it back, one more thing:
    30% of people who have had Covid, be it severe or asymptomatic, will go on to experience debilitating symptoms long term. For about 10% it may be lifelong. This includes kids. Trust me, I am an unwilling expert on post-viral disease and wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Long Covid, often turning into Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Dysautonomia, POTS, Diabetes, and more, is becoming a mass-disabling event in America and due to poor funding of post-viral disease before this, there is nothing doctors can do for these people. So PLEASE, stop clutching your handkerchiefs and understand that a 2% risk of dying, a 30% chance of potentially lifelong chronic illness and passing those risks to others is more important than whatever “yeah, but-” you got. It really really is.

    • I watched a movie along time ago with John Travolta in it.
      It was called “The Boy In The Plastic Bubble”
      If it was to be redone today, he would be the villain

      Funny, I’m much more worried about catching something from a sick vaccinated person than a sick unvaccinated person.

      Hopefully, most people working with the public have already gotten their shots to protect themselves.
      With this mandate, people will be forced to protect themselves and get a shot.

  10. I’m vaccinated and have the booster shot, also yearly flu shot, up to date on tetnus shot,pneumonia shot, shingles shot, wear a,mask, and stay in my car.Where is my monetary reward?

    • I am the same way, but my and others’ health is MUCH more important than a monetary reward. Yes, I sure could use that reward.

  11. This is what America has been reduced to. Giving incentives to people to “do the right thing”. I’m going to start demanding a reward for paying my taxes. Thought at one point I wanted to return to the Island. No more. Insanity has invaded these shores as well.

  12. I work in a suburban supermarket. So many workers have called in sick at the warehouse we get our produce from that we have been getting about half the product ordered in the past few weeks—there’s not enough workers to pick and load pallets. Not to mention the lack of truck drivers. Our medical providers, first-line and end-of-life workers have been at the straining/bursting point since the beginning of the pandemic and antivaxxers don’t have a problem with any of this? The uncaring ignorance is staggering. Not the kind of people I want to consider as fellow ‘citizens” who “love their country”. Yes, I have had problems after being vaccinated, but I did it to help myself and the people around me and the people I love. It’s not about politics, it’s not about personal choice, it’s about mass death of your fellow citizens and if you don’t think that’s important or true that’s where the immorality lies.

  13. Once again, good reporting Rich! Plus I learned a new word today; “progressive consequences”.

    Progressive Consequences — Do They Work?
    By Randy Sprick
    “Many teachers in our school use a classroom management plan in which
    each student has a set of colored cards contained in a pocket chart located
    in a prominent place in the classroom. When a student misbehaves, a
    card is pulled from his or her pocket. Each card is a different color and
    represents a progression of consequences such as, when the green card is
    pulled it serves as a warning, when the yellow card is pulled the student
    loses recess, when the orange card is pulled it is a parental contact, and if
    the red card is pulled the student is sent to the office.
    What do you think about this kind of system?”

    • Who gets to decide what is misbehaviour?
      The student?
      The parent?
      The teacher?
      The School Committe?
      The Selectman?
      Town Meeting?
      We know we can’t leave it to teachers, they are Progressives.
      Just look at kids today compared to kids back in your day.

      • Albert, your comment is very incorrect. I am a teacher in the MVYPS school system. Teachers only have a limited amount of time with our students compared to the time they spend at home and with others outside of school. The downfall of our childrens behavior lies within the way they are being raised. Sadly, most families now require two incomes and parents are working more than ever to support their families. Parents do not have as much time available to them to emotionally support their children. Couple that with with an increased reliability on technology, a decreased competency in social situations and quite frankly our children are exposed to many more adult themed things than they used to. Kids do go outside and ride bikes with their friends like they used to, now they shoot each other while playing online games. Kids dont play backyard football or basketball, they play mindless games on their tablets.

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