There was some movement in contract talks for a new MOU when CFI and Region 4 negotiators met last Thursday in San Diego. The problem is that some of that movement was positive and some negative.
On the positive side, the Region has removed its proposal to eliminate binding arbitration over grievances and discipline.
The rest was pretty negative.
CFI rejected the Region’s concept of simply rolling the MOU over for another two years with no economic improvements and virtually no change in language. Instead, CFI negotiators presented the Region with a pared down proposal and expressed hopes that serious negotiations might bring the talks to a quick resolution.
Joe Wiley, the San Francisco lawyer who is the Region 4 spokesperson, was dismayed that the Union still wanted to bargain over such things as health benefits for intermittent interpreters who reach the number of hours required for qualification, team interpreting and office space. He warned that dragging negotiations out (presumably by not agreeing to do things their way) could have dire consequences financially if the budget situation gets even worse.
From the CFI bargaining team’s perspective, trading an economic freeze for nothing seems a poor bargain. And nothing is what the Region is offering.
In a move that once again belies the courts’ rhetoric about treating interpreters the same as other employees, management reneged on the one decent improvement it had previously offered when it withdrew its proposal that interpreters get the same leaves as other employees. In explaining why interpreters should once again be relegated to a lesser status, Wiley said that some of the leaves other employees have might be because “they gave something else up.” In characteristic fashion, Wiley offered no examples to back up the statement. Even if true, the argument is lame. It would be pretty difficult for interpreters to find something of significant enough value in the region 4 MOU to trade for anything. That happy circumstance might only happen when interpreters are, indeed, treated as equal citizens of the courts in the workplace and at the bargaining table.
Considering this bad-faith regressive bargaining tactic, the CFI team is less and less hopeful that a fair agreement can be reached with the Region unless there is a change in management’s attitude. We are painfully aware of the dismal economic conditions and are not so foolish as to expect miracles in that arena. At the same time, the Courts are saving millions by furloughing interpreters, and the interpreter budget has not been cut. We still believe an agreement with some modest improvement on economics is reasonable and that there can and should be improvements in other areas of the MOU. We’ll press on at the bargaining table, but be prepared for us to ask for your help in convincing management that you deserve equal treatment that is truly equal.
Region 4 Bargaining Team
Mary Lou Aranguren in attendance