Elizabeth Hovde believes an outreach effort by the state should contain a mea culpa that’s as loud and clear as was the shaming of public employees who chose not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine
Washington Policy Center
How many workers will come back to an employer that left them high and dry remains to be seen, but Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee — and the state agency he directed to fire unvaccinated Washington State Ferries employees — should be yelling “All aboard!” to 132 former ferry workers.
A WSF employee tells me there have been negotiations to rehire workers and one or two have gotten jobs again with WSF. Others are likely awaiting an arbitration hearing scheduled for later this summer. (Lawsuits for the firings will result in even more bills for taxpayers after COVID-19 times.)
This past weekend’s ferry trouble, which included delayed and canceled routes, should be prompting the move without hesitation.
Two boats, the Yakima and Kitsap, needed emergency repairs, and two others, the Tillikum and Chelan, were sidelined for lack of crew, The Seattle Times reports. Some travelers were even stranded overnight in Friday Harbor waiting for a ferry that never showed.
One thing we can do to ease the trouble with an understaffed ferry system immediately is actively court the workers who shouldn’t have lost their jobs. They, and more than 2,000 other state workers who were terminated or retired early from state jobs because of the governor’s now rescinded vaccine mandate, should be receiving letters inviting them back.
As it is, the governor’s office tells me people who were fired can apply for their old jobs or new jobs like anyone else. That feels like when my kids tell me “sorry” for not loading their dishes in the dishwasher as they leave a dirty ice cream bowl on the counter.
This weekend’s trouble on the water highlighted the fragility of Washington State Ferries. The system is in need of new vessels and more staff. A staffing problem was brewing even before the vaccine mandate that terminated workers who could spread and contract COVID-19 — just as vaccinated ferry employees could spread and contract the virus.
Read more about vessel replacement and staffing needs in this blog by my colleague Charles Prestrud. WSF will not have the fleet or the crew needed to fully restore reliable service to pre-COVID levels anytime soon. But rehiring former employees could help the transportation system.
An outreach effort by the state should contain a mea culpa that’s as loud and clear as was the shaming of public employees who chose not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and the director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.
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