‘No evidence’ of sickout by Seattle City Light workers over vaccine mandate
Seattle City Light said it would be able to keep power on and complete any necessary repairs if there was a sickout Tuesday by employees over the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Julie Moore, the director of communications for Seattle City Light, told KIRO Radio on Monday that there had been no confirmation that members of its High Voltage Line Group will carry out the labor action. She says it does not appear that their union leaders are encouraging it.
As of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Moore says of about 250 high voltage line workers, only two called out.
“There is no evidence that a coordinated action took place, and there is no evidence that either of the call-outs were related to the vaccine mandate,” Moore wrote in an email to KIRO Radio.
Moore says Seattle City Light is still bargaining with the union to reach an agreement on the rules and conditions surrounding mandatory vaccines.
Gov. Inslee has a vaccine mandate in place for most state workers, which requires they be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or risk getting fired. An identical mandate was announced by King County Executive Dow Constantine for county workers, and by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan at the city-level.
Read the full statement from Seattle City Light to KIRO Radio below, sent on Sept. 6:
Since the beginning of COVID-19, Mayor Durkan has centered the health and safety of City employees who have been on the frontlines of COVID-19 by prioritizing PPE, testing, and vaccines. Vaccines are the single most important way to protect the lives of our City employees and community.
Seattle City Light (SCL) became aware of this possible action on Thursday evening. SCL leadership learned of the potential action through multiple sources. It is not yet clear whether this action will take place on Tuesday. We’re monitoring the situation closely.
SCL learned that some line crew chiefs who are members of IBEW Local 77 are considering an orchestrated action to call out sick on Tuesday, September 7. SCL has heard that this potential action is in response to the vaccination requirement for all City of Seattle employees that will take effect October 18. It’s important to note that none of this has been directly confirmed by the potentially participating staff themselves.
SCL understands that the workers who may be involved in this action are from the High Voltage Line Group, which performs high voltage electrical work on transmission and distribution lines. SCL has plans in place to maintain electrical services to customers and complete critical infrastructure work, should this action take place. These protocols are part of the utility’s Continuity of Operations Plan developed to ensure essential services are maintained. This plan was recently used at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For context, the City continues to bargain in good faith with the Coalition of City Unions, IBEW Local 77, and the police guilds. The City and unions have held multiple bargaining sessions regarding impacts of the vaccination requirement, including sessions about the process for evaluating exemptions, exemption forms, providing accommodations, and the vaccination verification protocols. The City, at this time, believes this potential action by employees is not being driven or supported by union leadership, and the City has been in touch with union representatives regarding this issue.
There had previously been rumors that a sickout for employees with Washington State Ferries could take place over Labor Day weekend. That sickout would have also been over the vaccine mandate, but it didn’t happen. There were no staff-related cancellations on the ferries this weekend.
The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.