Website, workshop focus on protecting members by educating them about vaccination
SEATTLE (Jan. 22, 2021) — The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO is urging union members to get informed and get vaccinated!
The WSLC has launched a COVID Vaccination Information resource for unions to protect their members’ interests and for rank-and-file members to get all the facts they need to make an informed choice when they have the opportunity to get vaccinated.
That site has assembled union-specific information such as customizable fliers, union principles for vaccination, and model MOU/contract language for working with signatory employers. It also includes union members’ stories about getting vaccinated, links to trusted information sources, and the latest news reports on vaccination efforts in Washington state and around the country.
Last week, the WSLC hosted a workshop and conversation last week with elected leaders, public health officials, and representatives of WSLC-affiliated unions about the importance of educating rank-and-file members on the issue.
“For us vaccination is a tool to keep us and our families safe, and while for the employers their priority is profit, for us this is about keeping working people safe,” said WSLC President Larry Brown. “And that safety starts with education. As we begin our outreach we want to make sure folks have the education and tools to feel comfortable to move forward with outreach plans as we partner with employers.”
More than 200 attended the workshop, which featured comments from Gov. Jay Inslee, a Q&A with state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah, a discussion of unions’ roles and responsibilities in working with employers, and most importantly, rank-and-file members’ stories about their experience getting vaccinated and their reasons for doing so.
Inslee began by thanking healthcare and other essential workers for their service during this pandemic, plus the many workers that were part of the development and the logistics of distributing and administering “this miracle vaccine.” He also explained the complications of trying to get everyone vaccinated — and specifically the challenge of prioritizing people — given the current very limited supply of the vaccine.
A focus of the workshop was the importance of vaccine prioritization and outreach for Black, Indigenous and people of color. Long-standing systemic and institutionalized racism within healthcare systems and social inequities have put BIPOC communities at increased likelihood of getting sick, prevented people from surviving, and continues to deny people the care and attention we all deserve to fight COVID-19.
Jane Hopkins, RN, Executive Vice President of SEIU HealthCare 1199NW and a WSLC Vice President, delivered powerful remarks about her personal experiences as a registered nurse and as an immigrant from Sierra Leone dealing with systemic racism in the healthcare system.
But ultimately, its rank-and-file union members themselves who need to get educated and get vaccinated.
Following are some of the stories shared at last week’s workshop: Alan Rivas (IAFF Local 1828), Senior Firefighter/Paramedic; Ariane Laird (SEIU Healthcare 1199NW), an emergency room nurse; and Kyong Barry (UFCW 21), a grocery worker.
There are more members’ stories posted at the WSLC’s COVID Vaccination Information site. Union leaders, staff and members are encouraged to visit that page, and contact us if you have other information that you think would be useful to share at that site.