Employees at the Oregon Department of Transportation are raising concerns as the deadline nears for state employees to get vaccinated.
Agency officials have heard that some employees have protested Gov. Kate Brown’s vaccine mandate by calling in sick – or that they plan to, according to Angela Beers Seydel, public information officer at the transportation department. Brown issued an executive order in mid-August requiring COVID-19 vaccines for K-12 educators, health care workers and all state employees. These employees have until Oct. 18 to be vaccinated or they may face termination.
“We’ve heard employees throughout the state express their concerns about the COVID-19 vaccination requirement in a variety of ways,” Beers Seydel said. “We’ve also had employees share their appreciation for the requirement.”
The agency does not tally why people call out from work. Beers Seydel said that the agency was able to complete all scheduled road maintenance service during the past week.
Beers Seydel said the transportation department has implemented a wide range of health and safety requirements to protect employees. She added that the vaccine will help the agency keep employees, partners and other Oregonians safe.
Brown’s mandate allows for medical or religious exceptions.
A number of state workers have sued Brown over the requirement, including nine Oregon State Police troopers and more than two dozen state firefighters.
Ben Morris, communications director for SEIU 503, Oregon’s public services and care provider union said he is unaware of any union members protesting the mandate by not going to work. However, he added, employees could face disciplinary action if they do.
Morris said the union is currently negotiating with the state over the vaccine mandate. If no agreement can be reached, the law allows unions to provide notice and vote to authorize a strike, he said.
“Our union has taken no such action,” Morris said. “In fact, we’re confident we will reach an agreement with the state soon.”
The friction between employees and employers over vaccinations is likely to increase in coming weeks.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced new vaccine requirements that could affect as many as 100 million American workers. The rule mandates vaccines for all health care workers and federal contractors, as well as in workplaces with more than 100 employees. If workers refuse vaccinations, they would be required to be tested weekly.