Reaction by some public sector employees to Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate has been swift, angry and defiant. He told state workers they have to get vaccinated by Oct. 18 or face termination.
Since then, forest firefighters, teachers, EMTs — even the Vashon Fire Chief —announced they would rather leave their jobs than comply.
“If the district wants to keep me, they’ll keep me, if they want to fire me, they’ll fire me,” Fire Chief Charles Krimmert told The Beachcomber.
If Inslee’s vaccine mandate prompts some civil servants and others to quit, so be it. The tortuous and deadly path of this pandemic requires decisive action to end it. A vacant government job represents an opportunity for another worker seeking a well-paying civic career with benefits.
The pandemic up-ended the job market and forced millions of Americans into temporary unemployment or permanent life changes.
Nearly one in three American workers under 40 are mulling a career change since the pandemic began, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll, conducted July 6 to 21.
About one in five workers overall have considered a professional shift, a signal that the pandemic has been a turning point for many, even those who did not contract the coronavirus.
The leisure and hospitality industry have been particularly hit hard hit by COVID.
Those retail, clerical or restaurant jobs — stressful, low-wage and often thankless — may not seem particularly exciting to return to, or seek out.
Government at all levels should ramp up recruiting efforts, and tout the benefits of public service.
Public service salaries are competitive and benefits often more generous than the private sector.
A few examples: The State of Washington is offering a licensed practical nurse position in Port Orchard beginning at $51,000. An entry corrections officer position at King County starts at more than $64,000 annually. A newly sworn-in officer at the Seattle Police Department earns $83,640.
Krimmert, the recalcitrant Vashon Fire Chief, earns $162,000. If he decides to leave and Vashon hires a replacement, that will have ripple effects throughout the economy. A job for a lesser position somewhere else will open up.
Leaving one career for another can be tough. It often takes more education or training. Community colleges are a great place to start, and there’s no shortage of online learning options. Employers, vocational trainers and educators should use this incredible opportunity to help people make the transition to public service.
Inslee should not back down on vaccine mandates. Some public sector workers will cash in their chips over an inoculation that has been safely administered to millions of people around the globe. Ambitious — and vaccinated — young people and mid-career changers can take their place, and contribute to the public good.
As the state’s logo says, “Working for Washington State is Work that Matters” — and easily worth a shot in the arm.