Governor Kate Brown issued a vaccine mandate for State employees on August 10. Our union immediately issued a demand to bargain over the impact of the mandate and began surveying the membership to determine our priorities at the bargaining table.
The results are in and they show that a slim majority of SEIU 503 members support the vaccine mandate, but one of the top priorities for bargaining is making sure there are exemptions in place to protect people who cannot get the vaccine.
It’s clear that our union is divided on the issue, and it is one where people have strongly held beliefs. But that doesn’t mean we can’t unify around a path forward. At the bargaining table we have an opportunity to represent the voices of all members.
The top priorities for bargaining include:
- Safe worksites, specifically by delaying the planned reopening of the State until Jan 1.
- A clear exemptions process for people with documented reasons for not taking the vaccine.
- Sick leave to take the vaccine and recover.
With FDA approval, employers have the legal authority to mandate vaccines. The survey clearly shows that our union is divided on that. But we can all agree that workers should have a say in how this policy impacts our lives.
SEIU 503 members who support the mandate want to make sure they are safe at work and the state is doing everything it can to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Members who oppose the mandate point to an overstep by the Governor, noting that an employer shouldn’t remove a person’s ability to make their own decision about the COVID-19 vaccine and highlighting situations where people cannot take the vaccine for medical or religious reasons. These are both reasonable positions. And together in union, we can fight for these accommodations.
As bargaining begins, keep an eye out for updates on our progress at the table.