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Hundreds of Washington workers sign lawsuit against Gov. Inslee's vaccine mandate

KOMO-TV Seattle logo KOMO-TV Seattle 9/24/2021 Keith Eldridge, KOMO News Reporter
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OLYMPIA, Wash. - Governor Jay Inslee says the high COVID-19 spread means getting vaccinated is even more important. However, several hundred state and local workers are in court this week trying to get his vaccination mandate overturned.

“I believe at the end of the day people will decide to remain in public service by and large,” said Inslee.

The governor’s vaccination mandate of Oct. 18 is fast approaching with 600 state and local workers taking the governor to court to stop the mandate.

“I’m hoping that we can continue working and pick up the pieces after the 18th and stay serving the public that we’ve made our lives up to this point,” said fire fighter William Cleary, whose name is at the top of the lawsuit.

The suit calls the mandate unconstitutional and asks a judge to order alternative accommodations such as testing and mask wearing. “The bottom line is there are in fact things that can be done to accommodate people while still addressing the very real threat of COVID,” said attorney Nathan Arnold.

The governor was asked during a press conference Thursday about the large number of plaintiffs. “They’re standing firm. They’re ready to lose their jobs. Their plea to you is to follow the lead of California, New York and New Jersey and allow for testing and other accommodations. What’s your reaction to that?” 

Inslee responded saying “We’ve found that testing does not save people’s lives. It just is not adequate to the task.”

Cleary said, “We’ve put a lot of time and effort and really given a lot of the past year and a half during the COVID pandemic and then only to have it all ripped away on the 18th because we have something sincerely held or possible a medical reason to now take this vaccine. It should be a personal choice.”

Inslee said in response, “We have over 60,000 people and the vast, vast, vast majority of those people I believe will stay in public service and be vaccinated, and that will be a success.”

The governor said he is standing firm on his vaccination mandate. He will not be extending it past Oct. 18.

RELATED | Washington state, Seattle and King County announce COVID vaccination mandates

Lawyers for the state and local employees suing the governor say they will return to court in Walla Walla Monday to continue asking the judge to overturn the mandate.

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