Declares thousands have been ‘wrongfully terminated’ for vaccination status
OLYMPIA – The nearly 2,000 state employees fired by Gov. Jay Inslee Oct. 18 for failing to submit to his order that all be vaccinated would get their jobs back under a bill prepared for introduction by Sen. Jim McCune, R-Graham.
The bill declares the workers were “wrongfully terminated” and says Gov. Jay Inslee’s mass firings violates the principles of religious liberty and bodily privacy valued by the people of Washington.
“Calling this an overreach isn’t strong enough,” said McCune, R-Graham. “The governor is being a bully. So this bill creates a ‘safe space’ for the seven million people of Washington.”
McCune’s bill has been drafted for consideration during the 2022 legislative session. McCune said he plans to introduce it in December when the filing period for new legislation begins.
The measure rescinds all terminations carried out under the governor’s Proclamation 21-14. The governor’s vaccination order affected workers in state agencies under the governor’s control, as well as private health care workers, and employees of public educational institutions.
The governor ordered the workers to be vaccinated on penalty of termination – and declared that workers who flouted his will would be ineligible for unemployment benefits.
McCune was one of five senators who called for Inslee’s resignation last month following the mass firings, on the grounds that he had abused his power. Washington is the only state that has taken vaccination mandates to this level.
The 20 other states mandating vaccinations for public employees and health care workers have given unvaccinated workers the option of regular testing and masking requirements, or have permitted broad exemptions for religious or personal objections. Some 29 states have no vaccination mandates, and 12 of those have passed laws prohibiting discrimination of the sort practiced by Inslee.
McCune noted that many who have suffered a bout of COVID have developed natural immunity, yet the governor’s order made no allowance for that. The bill specifically states that the Washington Legislature recognizes natural immunity as comparable to vaccination in prevention of COVID-19.
“The Washington Legislature needs to reassert its authority,” McCune said. “When our colleagues voted to cut the Legislature out of the decision-making process, they disenfranchised the people and established one-man rule in the state of Washington. I am sure many who voted for authoritarian government must be having second thoughts today now that they see the unfortunate result — as ferry runs are canceled, transportation and law enforcement agencies are short-staffed, and vital state services are impaired. I look forward to their support in making sure this bill gets a hearing and a vote.”