PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — State government workers in Rhode Island could soon be receiving a bonus for getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Democratic Gov. Daniel McKee's administration has reached a tentative agreement with AFSCME Council 94 on a new contract that includes a provision paying workers $3,000 for getting immunized, WPRI-TV reports.
J. Michael Downey, president of the state’s largest state workers union, said Thursday that union members will vote on the proposed four-year deal Dec. 2.
Downey told the station that the agreement calls for an initial $1,500 payment to vaccinated workers following next month’s vote and an additional $1,500 payment in July.
The McKee administration declined to comment, citing the ongoing contract negotiations.
The Rhode Island Republican Party accused McKee of “holiday shopping for votes with taxpayer money.” Party Chairperson Sue Cienki said it's a way to give free taxpayer money to state workers who have already been vaccinated, while those who remain unvaccinated for religious or health reasons will undoubtedly remain unvaccinated.
“Let’s call this exactly what it is, a disgraceful attempt to buy support from the unions before a primary,” Cienki said in a statement.
McKee, who took office in March after Gina Raimondo became U.S. commerce secretary, is expected to run for governor next year. He faces a crowded field that includes Rhode Island's secretary of state and treasurer.
Rhode Island mandated health care workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1, but didn't issue any mandate on state workers.
In neighboring Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed an executive order earlier this year ordering more than 40,000 state workers to get vaccinated by Oct. 17.