In Short

Oregon public employee unions file labor complaints over vaccine records gaffe

By: - October 29, 2021 4:29 pm

Federal officials have approved the latest Covid vaccines for children 5 to 11. (Getty Images)

Unions representing more than 31,000 state employees filed six separate labor complaints against the state of Oregon on Thursday for wrongly providing individual employees’ vaccination statuses to two newspapers.

Leading up to the Oct. 18 effective date for a Covid vaccination mandate for state employees, news organizations in the state requested agency-level vaccination and exemption data from the Oregon Department of Administrative Services. On Oct. 17, the agency incorrectly sent The Oregonian and the Salem Statesman Journal a file with the names and vaccination status of more than 40,000 state employees.

On Thursday, the Oregon Public Safety Association, the Association of Engineering Employees of Oregon, three units of the Oregon AFSCME Council 75 and the Kingsley Firefighters Association, which represents 28 firefighters employed at the Kingsley Air Force Base, filed complaints with the state Employment Relations Board, alleging the state’s release of those records was an unfair labor practice.

Five of the six complaints are identical and call for the state to publicly apologize, investigate what went wrong, and pay each union $1,000 as a civil penalty.

Neither news outlet has published the document it received, but the unions contend that they have no way to ensure their members’ information won’t be shared.

“The union’s leadership was shocked and deeply angered by the state’s careless, improper, and unlawful breach of its members’ privacy and confidentiality rights under the law and the (bargaining agreement),” the five complaints said. “Within minutes after the article was published, the union began receiving emails, phone calls, and other messages from employees who were angry and frightened by this egregious data breach.” 

In a separate complaint, the Oregon Public Safety Association wrote that their bargaining team was assured that only a select few administrators with medical security clearance would have access to employee vaccination records. The external relations director who sent the document with employee vaccination statuses to the newspapers did not have that clearance. 

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Julia Shumway
Julia Shumway

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.