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'Not afraid to be homeless': Unvaccinated BART employees react after mandate exemptions denied

ABC 7 San Francisco logo ABC 7 San Francisco 11/25/2021 KGO
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On the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, a number of unvaccinated BART employees learned their requests for a religious exemption to the BART COVID-19 vaccine mandate was denied.

The denial email clarifies that if the employee doesn't get vaccinated, retire, or resign, BART will seek their termination.

"It just kicked me in the stomach this morning when I came in and read that," said 19-year BART employee Albert Roth. Roth is unvaccinated and works as a automatic fare collection worker. He's also an ordained minister who had requested a religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. He received an email Wednesday morning, saying, "After careful review and consideration of the information provided, your request is denied."

RELATED: Bay Area parents react, some with outrage, as kids become eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

"Yeah J.R. I'm not giving in and there's a number of us that have the same opinion. We're not giving in, we're holding ground, holding firm on what our beliefs are," said Roth.

The transit agency's vaccine mandate goes into effect on Dec. 13. BART tells us as of right now, about 600 employees are unvaccinated. Board director Rebecca Saltzman said this last month, "We need to protect the health and safety of BART workers and BART riders."

In a statement, BART says, "We are working with our labor partners to deliver safe and reliable service now and in the future."

Roth believes a loss of hundreds of workers could impact safety, and so does community service officer and 14-year BART employee Rhiannon Doyle. Doyle received her religious exemption denial Wednesday, too.

"In my department alone I believe there is 60 of us, I'd say a good handful are civilians maybe five or 10, but the rest are officers. That is really going to impact the response time for emergencies," said Doyle.

RELATED: SFPD could be short 533 officers amid staffing strains from vaccine mandate

Doyle says she's not an anti-vaxxer, but had coronavirus in September and believes taking the vaccine would be an attempt to fix something that's not broken.

Doyle and Roth are against being told what to put in their body and say they're ready to walk if need be and daily testing isn't allowed.

"I've been homeless before and this is what I told the BART board, ya know. I'm not afraid to be homeless again, it is what it is, but now they're tapping into people's rights and I'm not going to stand for that, not on my watch," says Doyle.

BART says riders are depending on a healthy workforce. They plan to hold additional vaccine clinics for unvaccinated employees next week.

VIDEO: Hundreds gather near Golden Gate Bridge to protest vaccine mandates

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