State workers could receive bonuses for getting COVID-19 booster

OLYMPIA, Wash. — As part of a tentative agreement, Washington state employees could receive $1,000 bonuses for receiving a COVID-19 booster shot.

The bonuses are part of a possible deal between the state and the Washington Federation of State Employees.

The deal must still be approved by both sides, but it’s part of the highest compensation package in the union’s history.

“We really worked hard with management to get something that was an incentive, that made people want to do it, instead of feeling like they were forced,” said WFSE President Mike Yestramski.

Union leaders told KIRO 7 that money for the incentives will come from a federal grant that’s set to expire soon.

“Not only does it benefit the members, they’re going to put it right back into the economy, so it’s going to help more people in our state than just us,” said Ashley Fueston, WFSE Vice President.

Union leaders said that help includes the health of their members, especially as relatively few people have gotten boosters.

That’s because new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show only a third of Americans received their first COVID booster.

“Our union as a whole, (we) all feel strongly about workplace safety about workers health, about family health,” Yestramski said.

Representatives with the Washington Policy Center disagreed.

They told KIRO 7 the incentive doesn’t make sense from a health standpoint, pointing to rising levels of COVID infections among those who’ve already been boosted.

“It doesn’t meet up with the science, it doesn’t meet up with the numbers, and I don’t want to be an accomplice to coercion,” said Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center. “If this was a public health need, we wouldn’t negotiate it away.”

If the incentives are approved, it would be the first time in the United States that bonuses are offered for booster shots by such a large union of state employees.