SEIU demands right to bargain over COVID vaccine mandate


Gov. Brown ordered health care workers to get vaccinated or get tested regularly

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As the delta variant of the coronavirus continue to surge, sending a record number of people to Oregon hospitals, the move to mandate vaccinations for workers continues.

Governor Kate Brown announced on August 4 she ordered health care workers statewide to get vaccinated or face weekly testing for COVID-19. Brown directed the Oregon Health Authority to issue a new rule, since a 1989 law makes Oregon the only state in the country where it’s illegal to require vaccinations. Now, health care workers have until September 30 to show proof of vaccination or begin weekly testing then.

On Wednesday, Brown will announce a new requirement for all State of Oregon executive branch employees to be fully vaccinated by October 18, or six weeks after a COVID-19 vaccine receives full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whichever is later.

Unlike health care workers, State of Oregon employees will not have the option of weekly testing instead of showing proof of vaccination.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) said Tuesday employers have the legal right to mandate vaccines once the FDA gives final approval for the COVID-19 vaccines.

“However, the State can not simply declare a vaccine mandate and walk away. They must listen to essential workers and address our concerns with how this policy is implemented,” said SEIU Executive Direcgtor Melissa Unger and President Mike Powers in a joint statement.

The union demanded the right to bargain over the impacts a vaccine mandate would make. Unger and Powers said they “will fight for paid time off to take the vaccine and recover, exemptions for people with a documented reason for not taking the vaccine, and a seat at the table to ensure” every voice is heard.

They also said the state of Oregon must put more precautions in place regarding the planned re-opening of state offices in September.

‘Requiring vaccination protects those we serve’

Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read released a statement Tuesday fully supporting mandatory vaccinations.

Read said the vaccine is “the safest, most effective way” to stop COVID-19, and noted mandating vaccinations “is not a step that should be taken lightly.”

But, he said, being a public servant includes protecting the public.

“Requiring our workforce to be vaccinated protects those we serve from unnecessary exposure and risk. And it improves our ability to perform the work that Oregonians expect from us,” Read said.

“No one should be shamed for wanting to make the best decision for their loved ones. But there are ways for Oregonians to get their questions answered by qualified health care professionals who can confirm that the vaccine is safe, effective, and the best way to reduce the risk of serious disease.”

‘Running over free will is not leadership’

House Republican Leader Christine Drazan of Canby said Gov. Brown should stay out of vaccine mandates.

House Republican Leader Christine Drazan of Canby, 2021 (Pamplin Media Group/Jonathan House)

“The Governor has no business mandating COVID-19 vaccines for anybody. Running over free will is not leadership. We would be the only state in the nation forcing these vaccines on people like this. I trust Oregonians even if the Governor doesn’t. She shouldn’t be trying to control every aspect of their lives with mask and vaccine mandates.”

However, a 1989 Oregon law makes it the only state in the country where it is illegal to require vaccinations.

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