Washington state employees union suing over vaccine mandate

Aug 29, 2021, 7:09 AM | Updated: Aug 30, 2021, 10:29 am
vaccine mandate...
Gov. Jay Inslee at a press conference announcing a new vaccine requirement. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor)
(Photo courtesy of the Office of the Governor)

A union representing state employees is suing over the vaccine mandate announced by Gov. Jay Inslee in early August. The Washington Federation of State Employees says the state failed to bargain in good faith over the mandate’s impacts.

Responding to the lawsuit late Saturday in a statement to KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show, the governor’s office labels the union’s accusation as “false,” saying that “we look forward to the opportunity to respond in court.”

The WFSE announced the lawsuit Friday, saying that as soon as it learned of the vaccine mandate, it reached out to the state to discuss details.

“Will there be a fair and consistent process for employees in need of accommodations, how does the state intend to address staffing issues, and does the state intend to assist in this massive vaccination effort?” it posited.

The union said the state rejected the proposals and didn’t counter them until after the lawsuit was filed. The union says it has encouraged employees to speak to their physicians about the COVID-19 vaccine, and that health officials agree that vaccines, masking, and social distancing are the only way to end the COVID pandemic.

The mandate stipulates that vaccinations must be completed by Oct. 18 or state employees risk losing their jobs.

Government employees with deeply held religious convictions or certain medical conditions will be allowed to seek accommodation under this new policy. Employees who decline the vaccine without an approved exception will be subject to disciplinary measures, which encompass termination.

On Aug. 18, Gov. Inslee approved a requested mandate from state Superintendent Chris Reykdal to require all K-12 public school teachers be vaccinated — with limited exceptions for medical or religious reasons — or risk losing their job.

Rebekah Zabel, who works as a nurse at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, told KIRO Radio that based on discussions with her colleagues, she estimates at least 20-25% of the nurses at the facility plan to walk away from their jobs rather than get the vaccine — herself included.

From a legal perspective, there’s significant judicial precedent that gives states leeway to mandate vaccines for their employees.

That includes a 1905 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in Jacobson v. Massachusetts to uphold the authority of states to enact compulsory vaccination laws. Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has addressed that it’s legal under federal law for companies to require employees get vaccinated before entering the workplace. Exceptions are made for pregnancy, religious beliefs, and health complications.

72.4% of Washingtonians vaccinated

It’s unclear how many state employees and educators will refuse to get vaccinated by the deadline. As of Aug. 22, the state Department of Health reports 72.4% of all Washingtonians who are eligible (12+) have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Find a vaccine location near you with the state’s vaccine locator tool online here, or call 800-525-0127 to get help finding an appointment.

Local News

Nurses admit a patient transferred from the ICU COVID unit to the acute care COVID unit at Harborvi...
Nicole Jennings

Legislature debates WA hospital staffing ratios as healthcare labor problem steeps

Hospital administrators and health workers are divided over a bill that would mandate staffing ratios in different hospital departments.
1 day ago
homes, single family zoning, moving company, Puget Sound housing...
Nick Bowman

Puget Sound housing market hits record numbers as prices continue to soar

Despite historically low inventory, the Puget Sound region housing market set records in 2021, as prices continued skyward.
1 day ago
MyNorthwest Staff

‘Right to repair’ bill would give Washington state consumers control over electronics repair

Washington state’s Legislature is considering a consumer protection bill intended to make it easier to repair personal electronics.
1 day ago
Nick Bowman

State lawmakers take up abortion debate amid uncertain future for Roe v. Wade

The national debate surrounding abortion and reproductive rights is also taking place in Washington during 2022's legislative session.
1 day ago
downtown shooting...
KIRO Newsradio staff

Open investigation after downtown Seattle shooting sends one to hospital

A 31-year-old man was transported to Harborview Medical Center on Wednesday after a shooting in downtown Seattle.
1 day ago
COVID Washington two years...
Nick Bowman

2 years after Washington identified nation’s first COVID case, future of pandemic remains unclear

As of this week, it's now been exactly two years since the first case COVID-19 cases was identified in both Washington and the United States. 
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Washington state employees union suing over vaccine mandate