McCaslin bill would allow WSDOT to hire back workers who have had COVID

'My bill brings a measure of common sense into the governor's decision to fire WSDOT workers and help improve safety on the highway system,' says McCaslin

Legislation introduced in Olympia today would allow the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to hire back workers who have acquired immunity to COVID-19.

Rep. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley and member of the House Transportation Committee, drafted the bill in response to WSDOT's slow response times to clearing snow from Washington's passes and other maintenance and preservation issues.

“Our governor fired several key workers last fall who refused to comply with his vaccine mandate,” said McCaslin. “These workers would have made a difference in recent pass closures due to snow removal. As WSDOT has publicly stated, they lost 5.9% of their workforce agency wide due to the vaccine mandate, regardless of whether or not these individuals already had COVID and thus strong immunity.

“My bill brings a measure of common sense into the governor's decision to fire WSDOT workers and help improve safety on the highway system. If a snow plow operator or maintenance worker can show they have already had COVID, and thus the best immunity to further infection, we should get them back doing what the citizens of Washington want and need them to do,” said McCaslin.

In a blog post on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, WSDOT explained several reasons for low staffing levels. Included in the post was a bullet point stating: “In October, we had some staff leave the agency due to the state vaccine mandate – 5.9 percent agency-wide – which affected the already-low winter operations numbers.”

McCaslin's proposal, House Bill 1963, is titled: “An act relating to improving safety and preservation by allowing the Washington State Department of Transportation to either hire or rehire maintenance and preservation employees that have acquired immunities to COVID-19.” It has an emergency clause and would go into effect immediately upon passing the Legislature and receiving the governor's signature.

McCaslin said his bill is a continuation of his successful effort last legislative session to prioritize the preservation and maintenance of state roads and highways. Last year's bill, House Bill 1137, passed the Legislature and was signed into law. It requires WSDOT to perform its duties with preservation of the existing system and safety as its top priorities.

“We are slowly making progress on preserving and maintaining our state's highways,” said McCaslin. “Currently, the governor's firing of nearly 6% of WSDOT's workforce will have a negative impact on the progress we've made. I think a man or woman sitting alone in their snow plow truck, who has already had COVID-19 poses little to no risk to anyone else in WSDOT or the general public. We should allow these individuals to get back to the career's they've trained for and love.”

House Bill 1963 would allow rehired WSDOT workers to return at their previous level of seniority.

The 60-day, mostly-remote 2022 legislative session began Monday, Jan. 10.

Graph courtesy of WSDOT.

Photo credit: Washington State Legislative Photography Service

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov