Washington state workers union agree to COVID mandate terms

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Days after suing to block what is believed to be among the nation’s strictest COVID-19 employee vaccine mandates, Washington’s largest state labor union has announced a tentative agreement for Gov. Jay Inslee’s order for state workers.

The Northwest News Network reports the Washington Federation of State Employees has negotiated terms for Inslee’s mandate that all 46,000 of its union members be fully vaccinated by October 18 or lose their jobs.

The Democratic governor issued the order in August, citing the highly contagious delta variant.

The union countered with a labor complaint, claiming Inslee’s administration was bargaining in bad faith.

The new agreement, which still needs to be ratified, was announced Saturday and defines the exceptions and religious and medical exemptions process for employees who can’t or won’t get their shots.

“This agreement is a victory for both public health and due process,” WFSE said in a statement. “It puts in place a fair, equitable and consistent process for members seeking a legitimate exemption to the mandate.”

Anyone who is eligible to retire by the end of the year can forgo the vaccine if they use accrued or unpaid leave until they reach their retirement date.

Those who miss the October deadline will also be allowed to take leave for up to 30 days in order to get vaccinated.

Workers won’t lose their jobs while they wait for a determination on their exemption request and those denied will have 45 days on leave to get fully vaccinated.

Employees can also get the vaccine while on the clock and they will get a “vaccine incentive” in the form of an additional personal leave day in 2022.

“We are confident that through our negotiation efforts and partnership going forward, we have clarified issues to help employees get on the path towards vaccination and ultimately provide for safer workplaces,” said Mike Faulk, Gov. an Inslee spokesman.