King County reaches deal with ‘majority’ of unions on vaccine mandate
Officials say they have reached an agreement with a “majority” of unions on a soon-to-be-implemented vaccine mandate for King County employees.
The deal includes the King County Coalition of Unions, the Technical Employees Association, the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers, Local 77, the King County Corrections Guild, the King County Juvenile Detention Guild, the Washington State Nurses Association, and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587. That comprises 95% of the county’s employees.
“I am pleased that our Office of Labor Relations and nearly all of our labor unions have successfully negotiated the way we will implement employee vaccination,” Executive Dow Constantine said in a news release. “With a fully vaccinated workforce, we are protecting one another and the public we serve, keeping our community safe and healthy.”
Under an early-August order from Constantine, all county employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 as a condition of employment.
The new agreement between the county and unions relaxes that timeline, giving workers a chance to avoid being fired for not being compliant if they complete the vaccination process by Dec. 2. It also makes it so that county employees unable to work due to side effects brought on by the COVID-19 vaccine will be permitted to use COVID leave during their recovery, and will be given paid leave if they test positive for the virus.
A similar mandate for employees working for Washington state and the City of Seattle goes into effect on Oct. 18. The Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) — the largest union of public service workers in the state — reached an deal of its own with Gov. Inslee in early September regarding the vaccination requirement, allowing certain accommodations for employees looking for an exemption.
Starting in mid-October, King County will also require businesses like restaurants, bars, and music venues to have customers present either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.