State union group to drop lawsuit after reaching deal with Gov. Inslee on vaccine mandate

Gov. Inslee at a mass vaccination site at the Arlington Airport on Tuesday, April, 2021.

A state workers union will withdraw a lawsuit it had filed regarding a soon-to-be-enacted vaccine mandate, after reaching an agreement with Gov. Jay Inslee’s office.

Inslee: ‘No reason to abandon a career’ over vaccine mandate

The Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) says that among other things, it has bargained for vaccine education and shots during work hours, a process for medical or religious exemptions, and a retirement option as a way to opt out of the state’s mandate, which takes effect on October 18.

“Our union was able to achieve what we set out for — a victory for public health and due process,” WFSE President Mike Yestramski said in a news release.

The WFSE represents the largest union of public service workers in Washington, having first entered into bargaining with the governor’s office over the mandate in mid-August. After negotiations broke down, it filed a lawsuit asking a court to “compel (the state) to bargain in good faith.”

A day later, the WFSE says that it was presented with new terms from the state, “adopting several union priorities.” Negotiations started up again in earnest in early September, with the parties ratifying what had been a tentative deal last Friday. The WFSE is also in the process of withdrawing its lawsuit as a result.

King County to explore enacting new vaccine requirements

The vaccine mandate agreement allows for certain accommodations for employees looking for an exemption to the mandate.

If an employee has filed an exemption request by Sept. 13, and the request is still under review by the deadline of Oct. 18, that employee will “suffer no loss in pay” until an exemption decision has been reached, according to the WFSE’s statement on the agreement.

Furthermore, upon the approval of an employee’s vaccine exemption, annual leave and leave without pay can be used until an accommodation is identified.

An additional aspect of the agreement stipulates that employees may use annual leave or leave without pay for up to 45 days to become vaccinated in the event that their exemption request is denied.

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