March 8, 2020: Our union is taking the lead on the COVID-19 response

WFSE members are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus), and that's why our union has taken proactive steps to protect workers and their families.

When COVID-19 hit Washington, our union immediately began talks with the Governor's Office and the Office of Financial Management (OFM). Recognizing that our collective bargaining agreements do not account for pandemics, Leanne Kunze—our new executive director—proposed a new policy that would extend protections for workers. She argued those who may be required to self-quarantine is a matter of public health that should not fall on the shoulders of workers – especially those who may not have sufficient accrued leave balances. She also argued those who contract the virus as a result of on-the-job exposure should have expanded access to workers compensation.

The result so far:

Governor Inslee has expanded workers' compensation, recognizing the financial burden and greater risk facing working people in our state.

Governor Inslee is expected to release an additional executive policy this week that supports our union's position and sets an example that other employers should follow to protect workers and stop further spread of COVID-19. The new policy will include the following:

  • Guidance on telework for high risk categories, such as individuals over the age of 60, people with suppressed immune systems, and those who are pregnant.
  • Authorization of paid administrative leave (instead of accrued leave when telework is not an option) for healthy staff who are required to self-quarantine for up to 14 days.

A special thanks to our new executive director, Leanne Kunze, for positioning our union as the leader on this issue as she continues talks with the Governor's Office and OFM. I also want to thank all of our staff and members who are speaking up for facts and continuing to serve their communities during this public health matter.

Please stay tuned to the Department of Health's website for COVID-19 information and recommendations. If you have any questions or have evidence that your department is not taking adequate measures, please contact our WFSE Member Connection Center at 833-MCC-WFSE or email [email protected].