Vaccine Mandate Rescinded: Get the Facts

Update 6/1/2023

Our union sent a survey to members impacted by the rescission of the vaccine mandate, and they communicated clearly their desire for our union to focus on negotiating for the health and safety of currently employed state workers.

COVID-19 remains a serious hazard that employers must address. As such our union negotiated amendments to Article 20 (Safety and Health) of the General Government union contract, reiterating that it is the duty of every Employer to protect the health and safety of employees by establishing and maintaining a healthy and safe work environment and by requiring all employees to comply with health and safety measures established by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, which include but are not limited to providing hand washing facilities and supplies, regular cleaning and sanitizing of surfaces in all offices and facilities, and providing an adequate supply of masks, sanitizer and gloves upon request and where appropriate.

COVID-19 testing shall be done on the Employer's time and expense. Additional measures were also secured regarding contracting out, COVID-19 education, and physical spacing. 

Article 20 (Safety & Health) revisions


Governor Inslee has rescinded the COVID -19 vaccination mandate for state employees that was ordered by proclamation on August 9, 2021. The mandate required all state agency employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 18, 2021. 

The rescission will be effective May 11, 2023, aligning with the end of the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Declaration

The Governor is rescinding the vaccine mandate based on current health guidance. While vaccination continues to be the best defense against serious illness and death from COVID-19, the pandemic is not what it was three years ago. That is in large part due to our members’ work. COVID-19 arrived in Washington state in 2020 and WFSE members met it head on, achieving among the lowest death rates in the nation. 

As we did before the vaccine mandate went into effect, our union will file a demand to bargain over the rescission of the mandate and will negotiate the impacts on our members.

What can the union do about the rescission of the mandate? 

Employers have the legal right to mandate vaccines as a condition of employment. They also have the legal right to remove or alter those conditions of employment. That decision falls completely into the purview of the employer. 

Thanks to our union, members have the opportunity to bargain (negotiate) over the impacts when conditions of employment change. You have a say in your workplace, and you have protections that are in writing. 

  • Success during initial vaccine mandate

That was the case following the original vaccine mandate, when our union issued a demand to bargain to ensure that our members’ due-process rights were protected. 

After the first two days of negotiations, it became clear that the state’s bargaining team was not negotiating in good faith, so our union filed a lawsuit seeking court intervention. Several days later, the state provided a written proposal that adopted several of our union’s priorities. We resumed negotiations and the resulting agreement was accepted by a vote of the membership, with 80% of voters choosing to ratify. 

The vaccine mandate agreement protected members’ retirement regardless of their vaccination status, won an additional leave day, and established a fair and consistent process for those wishing to comply with the mandate. 

  • Pushed back against COVID-19 booster mandate in favor of a booster incentive

Our members also successfully pushed back against an attempt to impose a directive mandating COVID boosters for all state employees beginning July 1, 2023. 

Our union conducted a survey of the membership, and the benefit to state workers and the public of an incentive versus a mandate became clear. Our members understood that an incentive would result in the highest number of state employees choosing to receive their boosters, the lowest number of employees choosing to leave state service, and minimal impact to Washingtonians' ability to access critical public services. 

The result was a $1,000 payment for all state employees in the General Government bargaining unit who choose to receive a COVID-19 booster. This agreement is still valid even with the vaccine mandate being rescinded. 

What about the $1000 COVID-19 booster incentive? 

The $1,000 booster incentive in the General Government contract is still valid and employees can still get vaccinated and receive the payment by providing proof. See details here. 

What about our 2023-25 contracts?

Several of our 2023-25 collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) that were just ratified and funded by the Legislature will need to be revised as they contain language regarding the vaccine being a condition of employment.

What if I received an accommodation?

Those employees that were not required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine due to receiving an accommodation may no longer need an accommodation for not being vaccinated. 

Who does this apply to?

The Governor’s removal of the COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment only applies to those originally included in the mandate:

Higher ed institutions and those agencies with an elected official (SOS, AGO, DNR, etc) were not included in the mandate, but most, if not all, applied the same condition of employment. The Governor does not have the authority to remove any of the policies at those agencies or higher ed institutions, and those policies remain in effect unless the employer announces otherwise. 

That being said, SOS, professional staff at AGO, and DNR workers are within the General Government contract, and it is likely that the mandate will be removed as a condition of employment in those workplaces as well unless the agency heads object. Keep an eye out for a communication from your employer with details.