- Governor vows to fire public employees not vaccinated by Oct. 18
- Calls and emails flood legislative offices
- Thousands call for passage of Ericksen bill protecting vaccination rights
- Bill isn’t anti-vaccination, but protects right to choose
OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee’s new COVID-19 vaccine mandate has stirred a hornet’s nest in Olympia, and a vaccination-rights bill introduced nine months ago by Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, has become a focal point for protest.
Thousands of emails and phone calls have poured into legislative offices since the governor announced the expansion of his “get shot or get fired” mandate Wednesday. Constituent contacts last week came at a rate of about 100 per hour for every legislative office.
The bulk of them are demanding passage of Ericksen’s SB 5144, a measure to protect the right to choose. Ericksen’s bill, introduced in January, prohibits discrimination based on vaccination status. The bill specifically forbids state and local governments and private employers from firing unvaccinated workers.
The governor is telling public employees they will face termination if not vaccinated by Oct. 18. The rule applies to employees in agencies under the governor’s control, public and private school teachers and staff, higher education employees and health care workers.
“This is one time I wish I wasn’t a prophet,” Ericksen said. “But it was easy to see in January where this was heading, after months of emergency decrees from the governor’s office and no input from the people. When our colleagues voted to extend the governor’s emergency powers indefinitely, they invited this abuse of government authority.”
Ericksen’s bill didn’t get a hearing in the Democrat-controlled Senate during the 2021 session. But he says it was a good idea then and a good idea now.
“This bill isn’t pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine,” Ericksen explained. “It is pro-individual choice. We need to respect the right of people to make decisions for themselves.
“When I introduced this bill at the start of this year’s session, people insisted this type of discrimination would never happen. I’m sad to say, now it’s here.”