‘Real world consequences’ to vaccine mandate terminations, says state lawmaker

Oct 22, 2021, 12:51 PM | Updated: Oct 25, 2021, 2:28 pm
emergency powers...
(File photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(File photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

This week, nearly 2,000 Washingtonians lost their jobs as a direct result of Gov. Inslee’s emergency powers. Members of the state Legislature see that as the final damnation of his overreach and are calling for a rebalancing of the scales.

As of Friday afternoon, Oct. 22, a total of 1,887 state employees have been separated over a lack of compliance with Washington state’s vaccine mandate.

The greatest number of separations comes from Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), which has lost 402 employees over the mandate, representing 6% of their workforce.

WSDOT accounts for 21% of state employees fired over vaccine mandate

Needless to say, that agency runs a number of services critical to the state’s infrastructure. Losing those jobs, in a time when a number of WSDOT crews are already under duress, will impede the state’s ability to function at a fundamental level, says state Representative Andrew Barkis.

“These are real world consequences,” Barkis told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show.

Barkis detailed the ways in which the separations will affect WSDOT.

“We saw that the last couple of weeks with our ferry system, and the cancelation, and now the change of the route and services, it’s going to get worse,” he continued. “The big issues: maintaining our roads, our passes — we rely on WSDOT to run snowplows, which could start as soon as this weekend with the weather forecast to keep those passes open for commerce and safe passage.”

“This is very concerning because if we lose those highly specified skill set employees in those positions, we can’t replace them,” he added.

“So what are we going to do? Shut the passes down? Of course we’re not going to operate on an unsafe level. But I’m concerned because it puts the traveling motors at risk,” Barkis said. “And if, as the governor says, this is about saving lives and making sure people are safe, we have to take that into consideration too.”

State reports 92% compliance after vaccine mandate deadline

Barkis pointed to the ways in which public health mandates, handed down by Gov. Inslee, have been inconsistent over time as evidence that there is no end in sight in terms of how the governor will exercise the authority as given by emergency powers.

Specifically, Rep. Barkis pointed to mask mandates coming in and out of vogue as evidence that messaging from Inslee’s office has been inconsistent.

“The inmates are literally running the asylum here, and nobody knows what’s going on,” host Jason Mattera said. “But there’s one thing for certain, and that is Jay Inslee retains power over our lives in a way that no governor and public officials should.”

Barkis called into question the purview of emergency powers under a state of emergency if COVID is likely to simply be endemic. The World Health Organization has pointed to COVID’s rapid genetic mutations as something that could make it difficult to erase from a public health policy point of view.

“There is no reason for us to still be under the state of emergency. I mean, COVID is here. It’s going to be here. It’s part of our lives. It is,” Barkis said. “Why, then, are we still under this emergency? It is all about control and power.”

He called on the Legislature to roll back emergency powers in its next session.

“The governor’s powers need to be reformed so that we never see this again, no matter who the governor is and whatever the situation is in the future,” Barkis said.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

This article originally attributed the quote “the inmates are running the asylum,” in error, to Andrew Barkis, today’s date: Oct.25

Dori Monson on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dori monsonTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.

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‘Real world consequences’ to vaccine mandate terminations, says state lawmaker