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WFSE sues state over failure to bargain effects of mandate

The following is from the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28:

OLYMPIA (Aug. 30, 2021) — In response to Washington state’s failure to bargain the effects of Governor Inslee’s vaccine mandate in good faith, the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28 (WFSE) filed a lawsuit Thursday with Thurston County Superior Court.

“Our union’s top priority is health and safety—for staff and the public we serve,” said WFSE President Mike Yestramski. “That is why we need the state to make a good faith effort to bargain and to really think through how they’re going to implement this mandate in a safe, fair and consistent manner.”

Washington’s largest union of public service workers met with the state’s bargaining team on Aug. 16 and 18 after issuing a demand to bargain. WFSE raised several issues, including the need for a fair process for employees seeking religious or medical accommodations, staffing concerns, and whether the state intends to assist with vaccination efforts.

The state rejected all union proposals and failed to present any counter proposals until after the filing of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction on Sept. 3 because the proclamation impairs the union’s right to bargain on behalf of employees and impairs the ability to ensure a fair and reasonable exemption process. The lawsuit alleges an unfair labor practice for refusal to bargain in good faith.

“Our state’s front-line heroes understand the importance of getting vaccinated,” said Yestramski. “Turning your back on the public workers who have risked their own health to beat this pandemic is no way to bargain.”

The Washington Federation of State Employees is a union representing nearly 47,000 public service workers in state agencies, higher education and behavioral health. We care for Washington’s most vulnerable residents, provide services for children and families, ensure public safety, protect our natural resources and more. Our collective strength gives us the ability to speak up for our jobs, families and communities.

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