Governor’s new vaccine mandate cruel to public employees, Wilson says

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee’s new “get vaccinated or get fired” mandate for state employees is cruel, says Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview.

The new rule, announced Monday by the governor, requires state workers to obtain vaccinations for COVID-19, or face termination. The order applies to all employees in agencies under the governor’s direct control.

Wilson noted that other states imposing vaccination mandates on public employees give unvaccinated employees the option of regular COVID testing. “Other states aren’t this harsh,” Wilson said. “To get Washington to a 70 percent vaccination rate, the governor is using state employees as pawns.”

Wilson observed that the state’s vaccination rate currently is nearing 60 percent, months after the release of vaccines, an indication of widespread public misgivings. Wilson said the new edict offers disrespect to state employees with legitimate concerns about vaccinations that have not received final approvals from federal authorities. The mandate, which takes effect Oct. 18, allows exemptions for religious or medical reasons, but makes no allowance for those who have had COVID and have built up immunity, or for those who do not come into contact with the public.

“The governor is assuming state workers will comply without protest. But I’ve heard from a number of state employees who say they won’t go along. How do we expect to meet vital public-service needs if the governor fires state employees en masse?

“Make no mistake, I believe in vaccinations. I have been vaccinated myself. But we have to acknowledge that ultimately this is a matter of personal choice.

“For the governor to take the rash step of using government coercion to force vaccinations is an abuse of his emergency powers. And it shows once again what a mistake our colleagues in the Legislature made when they voted this year to extend his emergency COVID powers indefinitely.

“Our governor had no problem thumbing his nose at the federal government by endorsing sanctuary-state policies and flouting immigration laws. But when the people say ‘no, thank you’ to the governor, he retaliates.”