The union representing South County Fire’s nearly 300 firefighters has sent a letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, stating that union members “respectfully disagree” with the governor’s proclamation requiring that all state firefighters be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or lose their jobs.
“IAFF Local 1828 is not against vaccines, however we are against mandatory vaccinations that strip away our members’ right to choose and would also lead to them to be tern1inated from a career they have worked hard for and served selflessly to our communities, even during this pandemic,” stated the letter, signed by four IAFF Local 1828 officers.
The letter also noted that firefighters and other health care providers “have been serving on the frontlines of this pandemic for nearly two years. We have all seen firsthand the effects that COVID-19 has had on our communities.” And it adds that “many of our firefighters have chosen to become fully vaccinated.”
The governor’s proclamation, the letter said, “only offers vaccination or termination, yet as of today our membership is seeing breakthrough cases of the vaccinated and unvaccinated in our membership. There are other alternatives available, such as mandatory masking, weekly testing and social distancing requirements. These alternatives would keep health care providers and those we serve safe and keep the much-needed health care providers employed to provide the needed care during this pandemic.”
The union points to staffing shortages that will occur as a result of the. mandate, and asks that the governor’s proclamation “be revised to provide alternatives to the mandatory vaccination component and allow Washingtonians the medical freedom they deserve.”
You can read the full letter here.
In response, South County Fire Chief Thad Hovis said in a statement Tuesday that the fire authority will “continue to work closely with IAFF Local 1828 on this issue. South County Fire acknowledges and appreciates the rights and diverse perspectives of all our employees as well as the sacrifices they’ve made throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
South County Fire provides fire and emergency medical services to more than 250,000 residents in the cities of Brier, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and unincorporated southwest Snohomish County.
“As public servants we must comply with the laws and rules that govern our state and chosen profession,” Hovis said, adding that the fire authority has ‘notified all South County Fire employees to take immediate action to comply” with the governor’s proclamation. “Safety is our priority. We want to keep employees, their families and the people we serve safe,” he said.
“Vaccinating employees is our immediate focus,” he continued. “Of our 292 uniformed firefighters, 83% are now fully vaccinated and 88% have received their first dose. We are providing vaccination opportunities for all employees performing medical functions in their official course of duty that will allow them to meet the deadline. We want to keep our firefighters safe and employed.
“We are still evaluating potential staffing implications of the vaccine mandate. Our vaccination rate is well above the average for fire agencies in the Puget Sound region. County fire agencies are working together, as we have since the start of the pandemic, to make sure we have resources and plans in place to be able to respond to all emergencies when people dial 911,” Hovis said.