Washington state employees, contractors and healthcare workers must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 18 or risk being fired, according to an announcement made by Gov. Jay Inslee today.
In mandating the shots, and allowing limited exemptions only for medical or religious grounds, Inslee is following the lead of New York, California and liberal cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City, which recently announced similar policies for their employees. The governor was joined in his announcement by King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who announced similar mandates for their government employees.
Sen. Mike Padden, the lead Republican on the Senate Law and Justice Committee and a founding member of the Senate Freedom Caucus, called the move a violation of Washingtonians’ civil liberties.
“The people of this state have met the governor’s 70-percent vaccination goal and have lived under his sporadic and shifting emergency orders for more than 16 months,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “They don’t deserve to be bullied and threatened into putting something into their body that they don’t want. This is not only unnecessary and likely to result in greater rejection of the vaccine, but it’s a violation of basic civil liberties.”
Padden, with his fellow members of the Senate Freedom Caucus, has called for legislation that would prohibit government agencies, schools, employers and businesses that serve the public from discriminating against people who choose not to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
“I am not anti-vaccine,” explained Padden, who received the COVID-19 vaccine himself and personally supports the shot for those who choose it. “But no decision is more personal than the decision to receive an injection. Individuals should have access to the vaccine if they so choose, but no one should be forced to be vaccinated just to exercise the fundamental rights available to all citizens.
“Bullying and threatening our state employees and healthcare workers is no way to show appreciation for the tremendous service they provide the people of Washington.”
He also warned, “This will undoubtedly cost of the trust and goodwill of state employees, and as the economy recovers, we may also lose many of the talented men and women we count on to make state government operate smoothly.”
Inslee declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Feb. 29, 2020, and has refused the relinquish his emergency powers ever since. Majority Democrats in the Legislature extended his authority indefinitely during the early days of the 2021 legislative session and refused to limit the powers of the executive branch, despite several attempts by Republicans to reform the governor’s ability to act unilaterally.
“These are decisions that impact the basic freedom of all Washingtonians,” said Padden. “No one person should have that much power, completely unchecked. Lawmakers should be able to vote on these issues, representing the will of the people of this state.”