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Police shortage caused by COVID-19 vaccine mandate putting Sea-Tac Airport visitors at risk, union says

Teamsters Local Union 117 says the Port of Seattle Police Department is already struggling with fewer employees.

SEATAC, Wash. — The union representing Port of Seattle police told port officials they have "extreme concern" over the safety of the people they represent and the public traveling through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport due to a staffing shortage.

Port officials, however, disagree and say they are confident in both police and TSA staffing levels.

In a letter to Port of Seattle Executive Director Stephen Metruck, Teamsters Local Union 117 wrote the COVID-19 vaccine mandate is putting "your employees and the public at great risk during the holidays." The union points to the port's refusal to allow 17 police department employees who haven't been fully vaccinated to return to work.

Those employees - 14 officers, sergeants, commanders and three traffic specialists - have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the union. However, they are not fully vaccinated. 

The decision to prohibit them from working until they are fully vaccinated "is completely contrary to your stated goal of ensuring the health and safety of your employees and the public," the union writes.

According to the union, the number of port police employees who are fully vaccinated is "insufficient to meet safe staffing levels" for the volume of people expected to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday. They will "likely be forced" to work 80 hours or more per week, according to the union. 

On top of the employees not fully vaccinated, the union said port police were already short 17 officers and "nearly" 10 traffic specialists. 

On Monday, Port of Seattle spokesperson Perry Cooper said they are comfortable with their current staffing levels. He said plans have been in place, knowing the vaccine mandate deadline was coming.

"We are able to continue to maintain safety for all our passengers," he said.