Vaccine Mandates, the Governor’s Executive Orders, and the New Contract Vaccines and WPEA Represented Employees
Since the pandemic began, the Governor has put in place various Executive Orders requiring employees to be vaccinated for Covid-19 – or to have a valid exemption from the vaccine, and an approved accommodation, in order to remain employed. WPEA does not have a contractual requirement for members to be vaccinated in Higher Education. The vaccine requirements have been the result of the Governor’s Executive Orders.
On November 1, 2022, those Executive Orders are expiring. When that happens, higher education employers are free to lift the vaccine requirements for employees. Some employees filling certain positions may still be required to be vaccinated, for example employees in positions funded by specific grants may continue to require vaccinated employees. As with other employers, higher education employers may decide to have certain rules and requirements that are stricter than what is required by law.
On July 1, 2023, the terms and conditions of the new Higher Education contract between the WPEA and the State of Washington will be in effect. All contracts are a compromise - there are contract changes we do like that go along with the changes that we do not like. The 2023 – 2025 Higher Education contract is no exception. This new contract, unlike our current contract, will require vaccination for Covid-19. To be clear, the Employer’s higher education bargaining team, which included representatives from colleges covered by our contract, insisted that the new contract include a vaccine requirement for employees. As bargaining was drawing to a close and your WPEA bargaining team was still refusing to agree to any vaccine requirement in the new contract, the bargaining team for the Employer (which includes the Employer’s representative from your college) insisted that the vaccine requirement for employees be tied to certain economic benefits. For example, the $1000 lump sum payment to employees who receive the Covid-19 booster would only be included in the contract if the vaccine requirement for employees was also included.
Your WPEA bargaining team including the classified staff from the various colleges deliberated and debated long, hard, and passionately on this choice. Not only was this a demand from the Employer in their last, best, and final offer, but your bargaining team understands that the overwhelming majority of our existing members are in fact fully vaccinated. Some unions walked away from the additional lump sum income for their members. WPEA’s bargaining team was not going to turn down additional income available to over 90% of our members if they choose to get a booster, despite other unions making the decision to deny their members that opportunity.
In the end, your bargaining team decided that the economic benefit to you as members who had already been under the vaccine requirement for more than two years, was too great to pass up. Your team decided to go with the economic payments on the table that the Employer’s team had made clear would only be available if a vaccine requirement was also included. Your team represented the interests of our existing members and WPEA members ratified this agreement by an overwhelming majority.
The administration of some colleges are stating that the WPEA required vaccinations in the new contract. To be clear, this is not true. The vaccine requirement was an Employer demand from the very beginning of negotiations. The only way your bargaining team could get the Employer to agree to a contract that did not include a vaccine mandate, was to agree to a contract with a lower economic package to our members. Your bargaining team is charged with negotiating the best possible contract for you as a member. The financial loss of this choice was not one that your bargaining team was willing to make.
If you have any questions about the new contract or vaccine requirements, please contact the local bargaining team member from your college or WPEA Contract Administration Director Amanda Hacker at firstname.lastname@example.org
Executive Board Meeting Reschedule
Good day to you all,
Please be advised that due to limitations caused by a lack of quorum, the Executive Board meeting scheduled for this Saturday, October 29th, is cancelled. An emergency meeting on November 19th will be set to reschedule for this cancelled meeting. The Executive Board will ensure that all previously scheduled content is reviewed at that time. As for other meetings, please email WPEAEBMemberParticipation@wpea.org if you would like to give comment or suggestion at the next meeting. The union is YOU and your input in necessary for the Executive Board to make the decisions that best reflect and assist the membership.
I am writing today to share some updates about Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) and the UFCW Free College Program.
As you may remember, earlier this year, EGCC was forced to suspend the Free College Program by the Department of Education due to the Department’s belief that the Program violates Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. In response, EGCC filed an injunction against the Department of Education to allow the Program to continue while it is under review. I am pleased to report that a judge granted the preliminary injunction meaning that EGCC will be opening enrollment for the Free College Program today, October 25th to current students.
While this is certainly great news for our members and their family members who are currently enrolled in the Program, we are still waiting for the Department of Education to issue a Final Program Review which will determine the ultimate future of EGCC’s Free College Program. Therefore, we are still asking local unions to continue to hold off promoting the Program as a benefit of union membership until we are more certain about its future. Local unions should feel free to notify existing students that they are eligible to enroll in the upcoming semester. Those students should go to EGCC’s website for more information: https://egcc.edu/union-inquiry-form/.
Please know that we remain determined to find a way to continue to make sure our members have access to the education programs they have earned and deserve.
Thank you for all you do to support our union family and we will continue to share updates with you as we receive them.
Sincerely and fraternally,