October 18, 2021

State employees sue Inslee over vaccine mandate

2 min read

The union representing Washington state employees is suing Gov. Jay Inslee over his requirement that they are fully vaccinated in order to keep their jobs.

The Washington Federation of State Employees late last week filed an unfair labor practice complaint in Thurston County Superior Court. The union, which represents about 47,000 state workers, claims the Inslee administration failed to bargain in good faith over the mandate.

Inslee earlier this month issued an executive order requiring state employees, health care workers, K-12 employees and faculty and staff at public universities to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. Those who refuse and do not obtain a medical or religious exemption face dismissal.

A separate order from Inslee that took effect last week requires everyone ages 5 and up to wear a mask indoors in all public settings.

The lawsuit says the deadline for people to make a decision is actually much closer. The union says in order for a person to be considered fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, they would have to receive a second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine — or a single dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine — by Oct. 4. That, in turn, would require a first dose of Moderna or Pfizer by Sept. 6.

The union in a hearing scheduled for Friday before Thurston County Superior Court Judge Erik Price will ask for a preliminary injunction to suspend Inslee’s order.

The WSFE also wants the judge to permanently bar Inslee’s mandate as it is written and deem it an “unconstitutional impairment” to its collective bargaining agreement with the state.

“For example, because of the uncertainty surrounding the exemptions and accommodations and the shortness of time, employees pressed to decide to get vaccinated may be required to either subordinate matters of conscience or have a serious adverse reaction to the vaccine because of a medical disability,” the lawsuit states.

WFSE President Mike Yestramski in an email to members wrote that the lawsuit was prompted by Inslee’s rejection of union proposals about how the mandate would be managed.

“This lawsuit is about respecting our union’s right to bargain and ensuring that people in need of accommodations are treated fairly,” he wrote.

The union and the administration are scheduled to meet again on Wednesday in hopes of settling the matter ahead of Friday’s hearing.

Hundreds of people, including state employees, gathered outside the state capitol in Olympia Saturday to protest the mask and vaccine mandates.

This article was originally posted on State employees sue Inslee over vaccine mandate

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