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WFSE members ratify agreement on vaccine mandate

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

OLYMPIA (Sept. 13, 2021) — Members of the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28 (WFSE) ratified an agreement with the state addressing the effects of Governor Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate. The vote concluded Thursday night with more than 80 percent casting their ballot in favor of ratification.

The agreement provides an additional leave day, a retirement option, vaccine access and education on work time, and a fair, equitable and consistent process for employees seeking a medical or religious exemption.

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

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. When the state’s bargaining team failed to meet their legal obligation to negotiate, WFSE filed a lawsuit seeking court intervention to compel the employer to bargain in good faith.

Within 24 hours of filing the lawsuit, the employer provided a written proposal adopting several union priorities. Both parties resumed negotiations from Sept. 1-3 and reached a tentative agreement late Sept. 3. WFSE is now in the process of withdrawing the pending lawsuit.

“No one has worked harder to combat the COVID-19 pandemic than Washington’s state workers,” said Yestramski. “We understand that vaccination, masking and social distancing are necessary for ending this public health crisis. Now, we have an agreement that incentivizes vaccination and helps ensure a fair process for workers requesting a medical or religious exemption.”

WFSE has been at the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Members were among the first to respond to the deadly virus when it appeared in the United States, sounding the alarm on PPE shortages, calling for proper medical screenings in congregate settings, advocating telework for high-risk employees, and enforcing public health policies.

“Just as we have done over the past 18 months, our union will continue to advocate safe working conditions and accommodations for those who need them,” said Yestramski.

The Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28 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.

► Friday from the (Everett) Herald — One union OKs deal with state on governor’s vaccine mandate — Washington’s largest union of public service workers has ratified an agreement that provides workers an additional paid day off next year, options for retiring without risk of losing their job and protections against the loss of pay for employees seeking a medical or religious exemption. And workers who are partially vaccinated against COVID-19 by the Oct. 18 deadline set by Inslee will get extra time to comply with the mandate, though it might mean taking time off without pay. In the meantime, tentative agreements have been reached with a coalition of unions representing state ferry workers, the Washington Association of Wildlife Professionals and SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, an Inslee spokesman said Friday. Talks are slated this weekend between the Inslee administration and Teamsters 117, whose members include corrections officers.


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