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As Vaccine Misinformation Persists, Site Helps WA Union Members

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Friday, August 27, 2021   

SEATTLE -- Accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccine can be elusive, prompting the Washington State Labor Council to set up a website to answer people's questions.

David Groves, communications director for the Council, said there has been some hesitancy among union members, though not of the conspiracy-theory variety found on some corners of the internet.

He pointed out one of the main concerns was how quickly the vaccine was approved.

"We wanted to do some education about what the shots are, how they work, why they've been declared safe for emergency use," Groves explained. "And since then, we've just been building it out with more and more information as different issues come up."

Groves also noted there has been hesitancy in Black, Indigenous and other communities of color, mainly because of the unequal health outcomes for people in these groups. The Washington State Labor Council's website includes information resources for BIPOC members, as well as a vaccine locator and firsthand stories from union members who have received the vaccine.

As Washington state and employers mandate the vaccine, Groves believes it is important for unions to play a role in how mandates are implemented. He emphasized the process for exemptions, such as for medical reasons, is not yet clear, and others might need paid time off to get the shot.

"When unions are saying, 'No, you have to bargain over this,' we're not saying you have to bargain over whether a mandate exists," Groves stressed. "We're trying to bargain over the effects of the mandate and how it affects our members."

The American Federation of Teachers-Washington is among the unions reassuring its members it will be bargaining locally on the impacts of a vaccine mandate.

Groves added most of their members have already been vaccinated and feel strongly about working alongside people who also are protected.

"One of the key things that unions fight for is workplace safety; and this is absolutely a workplace safety issue, in addition to being a public safety issue," Groves asserted.

This month, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a vaccine mandate affecting about 60,000 state employees, 400,000 health-care providers and most education and child-care workers, many of whom are union members.


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