The Washington Federation of State Employees late last week filed an unfair labor practice complaint in Thurston County Superior Court. The union, which represents about 47,000 state workers, claims the Inslee administration failed to bargain in good faith over the mandate.
Inslee earlier this month issued an executive order requiring state employees, health care workers, K-12 employees and faculty and staff at public universities to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. Those who refuse and do not obtain a medical or religious exemption face dismissal.
A separate order from Inslee that took effect last week requires everyone ages 5 and up to wear a mask indoors in all public settings.
The lawsuit says the deadline for people to make a decision is actually much closer. The union says in order for a person to be considered fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, they would have to receive a second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine — or a single dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine — by Oct. 4. That, in turn, would require a first dose of Moderna or Pfizer by Sept. 6.
The union in a hearing scheduled for Friday before Thurston County Superior Court Judge Erik Price will ask for a preliminary injunction to suspend Inslee’s order.
The WSFE also wants the judge to permanently bar Inslee’s mandate as it is written and deem it an “unconstitutional impairment” to its collective bargaining agreement with the state.
“For example, because of the uncertainty surrounding the exemptions and accommodations and the shortness of time, employees pressed to decide to get vaccinated may be required to either subordinate matters of conscience or have a serious adverse reaction to the vaccine because of a medical disability,” the lawsuit states.
WFSE President Mike Yestramski in an email to members wrote that the lawsuit was prompted by Inslee’s rejection of union proposals about how the mandate would be managed.
“This lawsuit is about respecting our union’s right to bargain and ensuring that people in need of accommodations are treated fairly,” he wrote.
The union and the administration are scheduled to meet again on Wednesday in hopes of settling the matter ahead of Friday’s hearing.
Hundreds of people, including state employees, gathered outside the state capitol in Olympia Saturday to protest the mask and vaccine mandates.
A coalition of Oregon police officers and firefighters have sued Gov. Kate Brown over a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state employees.
The plaintiffs—including the Oregon Fraternal Order of Police and the Kingsley Firefighters Association—argued in a lawsuit filed Friday in a Jefferson County court (pdf) that Brown’s executive order violates a number of laws and want it blocked.
“Plaintiffs seek an order declaring EO No. 21-29 is unenforceable because it conflicts with Oregon statutes, would result in a common law wrongful discharge of the Plaintiffs, conflicts with the Oregon Constitution’s guarantee of free expression, and conflicts with the United States Constitution guarantee of equal protection, free exercise, and due process,” the complaint states.
Brown issued an executive order (pdf) on Aug. 13 that imposed a mandatory vaccine requirement on all executive branch employees. In the order, Brown said that, to date, around 70 percent of the state’s executive branch employees had taken the vaccine voluntarily, prompted in part by state efforts like organizing onsite vaccine clinics and financial incentives.
Citing the rise in COVID-19 infections and noting that both private and public employers across the United States have imposed mandates, Brown said it was time for tougher measures in Oregon.
“With the Delta variant raging in Oregon, with the state’s ability to fully return to in-person work continuing to be hampered by the risks from COVID-19, having implemented a series of incentives aimed at achieving voluntary compliance, and with full FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccine expected within weeks, the time has come for any remaining state employees and those who work alongside them in state government to get vaccinated,” she wrote in the order.
Ten days after Brown’s order, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave full regulatory approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
The order gives Oregon state workers until Oct. 18 to provide proof of vaccination or face consequences that could include dismissal.
The plaintiffs argued in the complaint that enforcement of the order would result in wrongful termination, and they have asked the court to declare it unlawful and block its enforcement.
“The individual plaintiffs are Executive Branch employees … who want to exercise control over their own medical treatment and are being forced to choose between their rights privileges and liberties as citizens on the one hand and their employment, careers, and financial futures on the other,” the complaint states.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the governor’s office for comment on the suit.
Brown’s spokesperson Liz Merah defended the executive order in a statement to The Associated Press.
“Given the seriousness of the situation, employer vaccine requirements have become an important tool, and state government plays a part. It’s critical to protect state workers, workplaces, and facilities, as well as members of the public who use state services,” she told the outlet.
The lawsuit comes as Oregon has faced a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks, with a seven-day average of 2,222 daily cases on Sept. 2, compared to fewer than 500 in mid-July, according to state health authorities.