Hawaii state and county workers are planning to sue over a Covid vaccine mandate announced by Hawaii Gov. David Ige last week, which will require employees to get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, one of the first lawsuits in the nation of its kind as more states and cities implement tougher restrictions amid a new surge in coronavirus cases.
The attorneys representing the workers’ unions claim the vaccine requirement violates the workers’ collective bargaining agreement.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced last week that state and county workers will need to get vaccinated or submit to testing starting August 16, saying those that don’t comply may get fired.
After the announcement was made, many state workers’ unions criticized the governor for failing to discuss the plan with individual unions ahead of time.
Hawaii is one of the states leading in Covid-19 vaccinations, according to the Mayo Clinic, with over 70% of its population having received at least one vaccine, and has one of the strictest masking rules, having kept its indoor mask mandate when other states dropped theirs.
“They’re just asking for the chance to choose,” said Shawn Luiz, an attorney representing the Hawaii unions, told KHON2. “It’s a personal, autonomous healthcare decision, and everyone should make their own choice, whether or not they want to take a vaccine or not.”
Hawaii’s Attorney General’s office told local news that it is “confident” the vaccine and testing policy is “lawful and constitutional,” and it said that the governor did not have to consult the unions before implementing the new vaccine requirement. Discussions between Gov. David Ige and the workers’ unions are set to continue through Monday.
California was the first state to require its state employees to get vaccinated against coronavirus or submit to weekly Covid testing in July. Other states like New York and Delaware followed suit, issuing vaccine requirements for state workers and healthcare workers in state hospitals. Minnesota is the latest state to announce it will require state employees to get vaccinated or tested. Some states like North Carolina only require healthcare workers in state hospitals, and not state employees, to show proof of vaccination.
Dayton, Ohio, police and fire unions are also planning to sue the city over its requirement that city employees to get vaccinated against coronavirus or face weekly testing, Dayton Daily News reports. The president of the Dayton police union, Jerry Dix, said they are planning to seek a court injunction to block the city from enforcing the policy. Dix told the Dayton Daily News the new vaccine requirement broke collective bargaining agreements, as the union was not informed of changes beforehand.