Like many employers across the nation, the Washington State Patrol is “on a collision course with a staffing crisis” due to a vaccine mandate that has virtually removed any exceptions.
Some WSP staffers were warned in emails Thursday that Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate does not allow for religious exemptions, reported Jason Rantz, a talk-host for KTTH radio in Seattle.
Rantz pointed out that for more than a year, troopers have successfully worked without a vaccine, using personal protective gear.
He said the decision, which impacts public-facing positions, was made after human resources consulted with the attorney general’s office.
Inslee, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination on a climate-change agenda, has warned that state employees must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or they will be fired.
Last week, Rantz reported there is strong resistance to the governor’s mandate from other state employees as well, including teachers and Department of Transportation biologists.
Along with religious convictions, they cite health and privacy concerns, and others simply don’t think it’s the state’s business if they choose vaccination or not, arguing it’s their body, their choice.
‘I wish I had better news’
In his report Friday on the state troopers, Rantz cited an email to some WSP staff.
“I wish I had better news on this as I know many of us have been waiting to hear back regarding accommodation requests,” it said. “I know this is hard news to hear for many of us. I wanted to share this with you directly as soon as I found out instead of waiting for the daily bulletin to come out.”
A second email circulating Friday morning from a WSP captain said the guidance was provided by state human resources from “guidance provided by the Governor’s Office.”
“At this time,” the email states, “it has been confirmed that for any public-facing position, there are limited accommodations available, and there is no accommodation we can provide for their religious exemption requests.”
The captain continued: “I already asked how this is possible and I’m seeking clarification on how we have been working in this Covid environment for the past 17-months utilizing the appropriate PPE, and social distancing protocols to complete our mission.”
A leaked email documenting deliberations between Inslee’s office and representatives for Attorney General Bob Ferguson showed officials wrote the religious exemption form to be as “narrow as possible” to stop religious staffers from receiving accommodation.
And, according to the email, employees seeking medical exemption “will have to take leave during that waiting period until they can come back to work fully vaccinated.”
Ready to be fired
Rantz reported many troopers are standing by their convictions and are ready to be fired.
Trooper Phillip Berg, in an interview on Rantz’s show, said the public “needs to be made aware of the repercussions of what October 19 looks like if medical exemptions and religious exemptions are not granted.”
“I disagree with the premise of mandate on its face, [but] I decided to put in my religious exemption form for a specific reason,” Berg said. “That it’s a chance to stand up for the unborn. That is my objection to it. The fetal cell lines used in the process to create this vaccine. So it’s an opportunity for me to have a voice for the unborn that didn’t have a choice in this.”
He said there’s “nothing that anyone or any governmental entity can do to get me to disregard what God has placed on my heart.”
Rantz obtained an internal poll of the State Patrol Troopers Association conducted Aug. 9-17 that found 295 troopers said they would refuse vaccination at the risk of being fired.
In a more general question, 449 troopers said they disagree with mandatory vaccinations. Only 19 said they supported it.
The association said in an email to members: “Important questions need to be addressed, including what the agency will look like with a 20-35 percent loss of employees? How will the agency deploy resources to the areas that are most impacted?”
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