Washington employees union ratifies vaccine deal with state

West

Dentist Aditi Agarwal administers a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at a mass vaccination site at Lumen Field Event Center in Seattle, Washington, U.S. March 13, 2021. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

SEATTLE (AP) — Members of Washington state’s largest labor union have approved a tentative agreement with the state over Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The Washington Federation of State Employees approved the agreement Thursday night, with more than 80% of ballots cast in favor of ratifying the agreement, a local news outlet reported.

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

The agreement defines the exceptions and religious and medical exemptions process for employees who can’t or won’t get their shots.

Anyone eligible to retire by the end of the year can forgo the vaccine if they use accrued or unpaid leave until they reach their retirement date.

Those who miss the October deadline will be allowed to take leave for up to 30 days to get vaccinated.

Workers won’t lose their jobs while they wait for a determination on their exemption request, and those denied will have 45 days on leave to get fully vaccinated.

Employees can also get the vaccine while on the clock, and they will get a “vaccine incentive” in the form of an additional personal leave day in 2022.

The union, which represents 47,000 state employees, previously filed a lawsuit asking a judge to stop the mandate from going into effect after the union and the state failed to reach a bargaining agreement over the exemption process.

Inslee, a Democrat, issued the order in August, citing the highly contagious delta variant.

The WFSE said it’s withdrawing the lawsuit.

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