California Federation of Interpreters

Our Right To Vote

 

CFI members:

At the end of October 2018 and after the Local board was removed, I was asked to take over the Local to address administration issues. As the Temporary Administrator, I was made aware of the issues which had forced the Local into receivership. Those issues included but were not limited to the misappropriation of Local Funds, as well as attempts to undermine the union structure. Per the CWA constitution and the Department of Labor guidelines, certain Eboard members were charged with violations, then found guilty in court hearings. Since then, we have attempted to address the many issues and problems faced on a daily basis by our members. 

Unfortunately, the guilty ex-board members have continued to try and wreak havoc on the Local and the membership at large. They have continued to disseminate false informational well as outright lies not just about the Local but about what it was that they attempted to do with the Local and the union member’s monies. 

Beyond this, the Union has determine that it is now time to return the local to self governance. Contrary to the lies and misrepresentations being spread by the “CFI Recovery” group, this was a determination made by the Union, in consultation with the DOL, not by the DOL.

We are now in the middle of arrangements for the election of individuals who believe they would like to run for one of the available board positions.  The sad truth is, the CFI Recovery group and their supporters are advising members to boycott this election. Why is that? For their own selfish reasons!  A boycott of the election means you throw away your right to have a voice in who you want as your leaders. You also erode your say as to what goals your Local will be striving to gain. The question is, are you prepared to throw everything away just to satisfy the vengeance of a few individuals, Or are you ready to help in rebuilding CFI Local 39000 and turn it into what it should be, The trend setter for Public Employees in California. This Local has the potential, don’t give it away to malcontent,s failed ex- Eboard members. 

 

In Unity,

Ed Venegas

 

Legislative Conference: CFI Attendees Participate in Labor Federation Efforts

Sacramento_ CFI members recently participated in the California Labor Federation’s 2019 Joint Legislative Conference, a gathering in which unions and activists from all over the state join efforts to lobby for bills in favor of labor and to share ideas for future projects.

Silvia San Martin and Jackie Ruiz from Region 4 and Tyler Nguyen and Janet Hudec from Region 3 attended the Building the Future conference held March 31through April 3 in Sacramento on behalf of our local.  

The conference emphasized the importance for all union members to get involved in the democratic process. Locals must have active Legislative and Political Action Committees to work on elections, educate members on the issues, and lobby for our interests. We see how unions can be weakened and how a single action of Congress or state legislature can eliminate advances.

Currently, CFI Local 39000 is in support of several bills CWA wants lawmakers to pass:

  • AB 1677 Call Centers, sponsored by Assembly member Shirley Weber. This bill would prioritize state grants and subsidies to corporations that retain call center jobs in California. AB 1677 would require that employers seeking to relocate call center jobs to another country give the Labor Commissioner 120 days’ notice; would prohibit employers appearing on the Commissioner’s compiled list of call center job exporters from receiving any state grants, guaranteed loans, or tax benefits for five years. AB 1677 is instrumental in our fight against Video Remote Interpreting (VRI). This bill will incentivize VRI call centers to stay in the state of California, hire Californians, and contribute to California’s economic growth. With a heathier economy, state funded budgets (like the Interpreter fund) have the opportunity to increase. 
  • AB 1066 Unemployment Insurance: Extended Duration Benefits, sponsored by Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez. This bill would provide unemployment benefits for workers during a strike. Ineligibility for unemployment benefits during a labor dispute creates an incentive for an employer to delay and be unreasonable during negotiations. Employers can try to exacerbate the financial hardship on workers as a strategy to secure a more favorable outcome during labor negotiations. This type of hardship should not exist for workers who are merely exercising their rights. Allowing workers to be eligible for unemployment insurance, after a period of two weeks, would create a more level bargaining field between employers and employees.
  • AB 5 Defend Dynamex and Rebuild the Middle Class, a joint effort by labor unions joint sponsored by Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez. On April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling in Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Courtthat made it harder for companies to misclassify workers as independent contractors. AB 5 will codify this decision and clarify where it applies. It will also exempt from the decision specified professionals where such protection is not warranted. The bill will clarify what employment relationships are not covered by the decision, providing certainty to industries that are unsure of the case’s implications. 

Currently, CFI Local 39000 is working on creating several future bills that will benefit our profession. More information will be provided in the near future. Stay tuned!

We are only strong when we join forces, stand together, and fight together. 

In Solidarity,

Janet Hudec

 

Judicial Council formed the Interpreter Act Working Group

 

In August of this year, in line with Recommendation 74 of the Language Access Plan, the Judicial Council formed the Interpreter Act Working Group; it was composed of court CEO’s, Judicial Council administrators and staff from the Court Interpreter Program, as well as both independent and union member employee interpreters. The Working Group was charged with reviewing and offering perspective on the present state of the Trial Court Interpreter Employment and Labor Relations Act, now incorporated into the California Government Code under Title 8, Chapter 7.5, Sections 71800 – 71829. The specific focus in the process was the four Region bargaining structure[1], the 100- & 45-Day Rule[2], and the Cross-assignment system[3]. The Working Group’s co-chairs, Judge Austin, formerly the chair of the Court Interpreter Advisory Group, and Kim Turner, Mendocino Superior Court CEO, explained that these specific topics had come to be on the group’s agenda because of commentary and inquiries from “shareholders” to language access in the courts. 

It should be noted that the Interpreter Act Working Group basically was a gathering for brainstorming ideas and perceptions about how these points in the interpreter law were functioning; the group was to determine whether these points in the law addressed the issue of language well, poorly, or so badly there must be a change, and whether that change requires a slight amendment to the law, or completely changing how the focus subject is handled within language access law. The group had the ability to make recommendations, but because of disparity in certain points of view and opinions, no recommendation was offered; instead the group compiled a summation of the variation, conflict, and agreement among the participant’s views as they relate to each one of the topics covered.

During the initial meeting of the Interpreter Act Working Group during the summer of 2017 there was commentary and questions raised concerning the lack of union member employee interpreters at the discussion. At the strong behest of a coalition of stakeholders, a total of five interpreters came to participate – four from CFI Local 39000, and one from Interpreter Guild of America, a unit in Local 39521.[4]There was value to the court interpreter union’s involvement, and value in our knowledge-base. This could be a step toward a more positive relationship between the Judicial Council and union member interpreters, the mainstays of providing language access in the courts. The feel during meetings[5]was welcoming, and non-interpreter participants were genuinely interested in the interpreter perspective; all interpreters who participated felt that we were accepted as equals at the roundtable of expertise. However, we had no illusions; we well knew that there would be disagreement, if not conflict on some of the issues, and the possibility that there would not be room for compromise on some of the discussion topics.

Both union member employee interpreter (CFI Local 39000) and independent contractor (Interpreter Guild of America) collaborated, not only during the meetings, but in preparation video chats before the scheduled phone calls. The result is aligning our combined perspective on the working group’s focus points. 

100- & 45-Day Rule

The attending court CEO’s and Language Access Services offices around the states presented the complaint that there are not enough certified/registered interpreters to service the needs of the courts; additionally, rural courts are found to have an even more dire need. The argument was that revoking the 100-day rule would remove the restraint against using independent contractors past the hundredth day, thereby creating a much larger pool to service the courts’ language needs. 

The interpreter response was that because of marginal requirements to offer employment after the 45thday, there could be something that would truly increase interpreter resources, such as offering a full-time position after a longer period of providing services as an independent contractor.

Cross-assignment System

The consensus within the Working Group is that the cross-assignment system is working well in some jurisdictions/regions and is inadequately meeting the language access needs in others. The large urban courts with more interpreter resources become the provider courts to those with fewer interpreters on the rosters, or varied language groups to choose from. There is a reticence on the part of resource-flush courts to share their interpreter pool, as presently it is difficult to know what their needs are far enough in advance to confidently share. Also problematic in cross-assigning is that the administrative procedures are cumbersome; centralizing the coordination toward state-wide collaboration could improve efficiencies; there was agreement that fixing this could go a long way toward better interpreter resource sharing. 

In comparison with other jurisdictions, the Sacramento Court has utilized the cross-assignment system more effectively; while other jurisdictions are only willing to cross-assign intermittent/part-time interpreters, if a full-time Sacramento interpreter is not needed for that day, the court will authorize him/her for cross-assignment. The interpreters in the group presented the following suggestions:

  • In the cross-assignment system enable earlier authorization of release from the home court instead of the day before; anywhere from 2 to 5 days prior was held out as an example.
  • All courts be willing to cross-assign any category of interpreter, whether full-time, part-time, or intermittent.
  • In line with the Interpreter Act, courts (particularly provider courts) create full-time positions with the requisite that if not used at the home court, the interpreter would be cross-assigned. Provider courts should be given incentives to create these positions, as well as offer incentives to interpreters recruited into these positions.
  • Consider making interpreters State employees, thereby allowing for sharing resources statewide, with centralized coordination.

Regional Bargaining vs. Statewide General Contract

The impetus for initiating this series of meetings was to address the regional bargaining structure; this was the issue on which the group spent the lion’s share of time. Regional bargaining is complicated for the Union in that, although there was some uniformity throughout the different contracts, there was enough disparity to cause most interpreters to gravitate toward regions with more favorable conditions, resulting in shortages in other areas of the state. All agreed that this structure is costly for all participants, rehashing the same issues with varying results for both courts and interpreters.

Although most of the participants expressed that a general state-wide contract would be preferable to the present system, the court representatives from Los Angeles and San Diego stated that they would rather be separated from any statewide structure, and bargain directly with the interpreters locally, unencumbered by other jurisdictions. Most shocking was San Diego’s suggestion that the interpreters simply be placed into the existing unions (SEIU, AFSCME) to simplify negotiations; the Union reminded the San Diego representative that union affiliation is determined by the interpreters, not local court administration. The interpreters present made it clear that CFI Local 39000 TNG-CWA is the representative of all employee interpreters in California, whether that structure be regional, or statewide.[6]Searching for a compromise, the staff leading the discussion suggested a “hybrid,” allowing the larger courts to opt-out and negotiate separate from other “regions” composed of the smaller jurisdictions. The interpreters clearly rejected the concept, mostly because in practice there is no change from the regional structure, just different names, and possibly even more groups with whom to carry out bargaining. The hybrid version is not a solution for anyone, save Los Angeles and San Diego.

Although the idea of a statewide bargaining for a general contract is advantageous to interpreters (and court administration) in many ways, there is a pantheon of kinks to be worked out:

  • There is a high level of investment in local pensions plans; it is not clear if one could keep their present plan and benefits, or would one have to transfer into a State of California plan. The consensus is that a transition period would be needed to address this issue; there was a positive view for allowing present interpreters decide which benefit set is preferred. 
  • It is unclear how to handle issues of seniority and standardizing pay scales; some jurisdictions have steps, while others do not. 
  • As part of going to a statewide structure for bargaining, if interpreters are then made state employees, one issue is whether they will be required to relocate to address needs, similar to what is standard for other employees in the judicial system, such as judges.
  • There are any number of complexities in consolidating the present four contracts into one statewide general contract. One consideration is to have a general contract that addresses the basic labor issues – salary, seniority, etc. – and then handle issues unique and specific to each jurisdiction via side letters. When pressed on that detail, the jurisdictions present did not identify the “unique/specific issues.” The result of a hybrid system could be an even larger number of sessions of meet & confer/negotiating.

Some of the positive results of a statewide contract could lead to:

  • A consistent base pay for interpreters, regardless of where located throughout the state. Interpreters who were reluctant to relocate because of impact to pay and/or benefits would not be constrained by these sorts of factors.
  • More flexibility to relocate throughout the state.
  • Consistency and uniformity in benefits and pensions, regardless of where located throughout the state.
  • The “middle man” would be eliminated in interpreter budget considerations during the bargaining process; the state sets the budget and would be the entity with whom we directly negotiate, without the need to have the different judicial court entities involved (and possibly being obstructionist).
  • All parties involved in the negotiating process would save money with a statewide approach.
  • One singular advantage for the Union is that the entire local would be involved in bargaining; there is strength in numbers, and our impact on bargaining would be enhanced by focusing statewide, martialing our membership statewide, and getting results that are statewide. In a nutshell, more leverage.

In conclusion, what are we, both as court interpreters and union members, to understand from all this? Firstly, this is only a beginning that is basically a brainstorming of ideas and opinions; this Interpreter Act Working Group has compiled information to be presented to the Judicial Council, without any specific recommendations, as the group could not come to consensus as to endorsements for any course of action. We should understand that there are some notable differences of perspectives between courts and court interpreters regarding the Working Group’s subject matter, likewise, there are similar gaps in the viewpoints between the varying jurisdictions.

Union member representatives are collaborating with other sectors of certified interpreters to represent our members’ labor and professional interests at the Judicial Council. Moreover, the definitive decision as to how courts function is decided by elected representatives in the legislature, not the Judicial Council. We will have to be vigilant as to where the Judicial Council goes with this information; having a good legislative agenda and coordinated, focused lobbying efforts in the coming years will be key toward guiding Judicial Council policies and musings in a direction that brings meaningful language access to the courts, as well as protect our labor rights and professional tenets.

In solidarity,

Janet Hudec
Tyler Nguyen
Pedro Ramírez Navas
Angie Birchfield
Michael Ferreira 

 


[1]California Government Code under Title 8, Chapter 7.5, 71807

[2]California Government Code under Title 8, Chapter 7.5, 71802(c)(2)

[3]California Government Code under Title 8, Chapter 7.5, 71810

[4]A complete list of all participants is attached.

[5]Except for a one-day in person meeting at the Judicial Council offices, all others were telephonic during the lunch hour.

[6]By law the counties of Solano and Ventura are excluded; this was a compromise, as employee interpreters there were already represented by other unions.

 

AFL-CIO Western District Conference

AFL-CIO held its 2019 Western District Conference on March 26thand 27th   at the NetZero Electrical Institute in the City of Commerce. Dozens of delegates from Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming were in attendance. 
 
The purpose of this conference was to bring together unions in an effort to collectively revise and assess the current state of the labor movement in those states. Unit member, Pedro Ramirez-Navas attended the conference as a representative of CFI. 
 
The opening plenary presented a great opportunity to meet other delegates and to hear reports about some of the most important struggles for workers rights taking place right now. The dreadful feeling of despair and hopelessness that dominates our current political environment quickly disappeared and gave way to an atmosphere of hope and confidence after the first dynamic presentation.  
 
The delegates were welcomed by Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation and Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO. Gaylan Prescott, Assistant Director of United Steel Workers (USW) District 12, delivered a compelling report about theLucky Friday Mineworkers in Idaho who are on strike, an action that has entered its second year. He explained the deplorable conditions that miners face when they have to descend two miles underground without any kind of safety measures. Mine workers have died in several accidents caused by unsafe conditions. Today 247 miners remain on strike, despite the threats and retaliatory actions of the company. These miners have a saying: “One day longer, one day stronger.” 
 
The American Postal Workers Union delegates reported on the recent efforts by the Federal government to privatize the postal service. These efforts include the creation of a White House Task Force that generates false financial information.  In its findings, this task force has issued a report that is attempting to create an image of a budget and management crisis in the postal service in order eliminate collective bargaining, reduce wages, raise rates and outsource the services of the USPS.  Of course none of this will happen without a fight. Our sisters and brothers will most definitely need our support. Stay tuned for updates regarding this important battle. 
 
Perhaps the most important report came from United Teachers Los Angeles. With their recent victory, UTLA together with teachers in West Virginia and other cities and states across the country are being credited with reviving the Labor movement in the U.S. Daniel Barnhart, Secondary Vice President of UTLA, delivered a powerful presentation about the strike. He recalled thousands of teachers taking to the streets, braving the rain and the cold. Several pages would probably be needed to write about this heroic strike that many of us supported in various capacities. We are including a link to a video created by UTLA that will give you a perspective on this powerful strike that made history. https://youtu.be/hU6JU9WMV5Q
 
The conference also held several workshops and CFI participated in two of them. The first workshop was titled Power to Win-Worksite Organizing Programs that Deliver. This discussion group addressed essential techniques utilized to organize our colleagues at the worksite.
 
The second workshop was titled Membership Has Its Benefits: Maximizing the Union’s Value for Members. This group provided useful information for services that our members might find important, such as assistance to purchase a new home, a new vehicle, debt consolidation and even financial assistance for college education. All these services are available to our members through the Union Plusprogram. If you would like to find out more information, please contact your shop steward. 
 
The conference was an impressive achievement, from lodging to meals, to transportation, to electronic updates and timely sessions. It was a testament to the capacity of the organizers and it gave delegates confidence that there is light at the end of the tunnel. 
 
The current political climate is against working people, our quality of life continues to decline rapidly and for some it might seem as if all is already lost.  However, there is hope and it is within each and every one of us.  When working people come together we can make history and change the world.  We now know that we can fight, but we must move forward.  Recent developments have shown us that not only we can resist, but we can also win!
 
In solidarity
 
Pedro Ramirez-Navas

 

 

 

Call for nominations for CFI Local 39000 officers and Executive Committee members

 
The CWA Trusteeship of CFI is scheduled to end in June, upon the election and training of new local officers and executive committee members. 
 
Nominations are now open for the following Titled Officer and Executive Committee positions:
 
President
Vice President
Secretary-Treasurer
Region 1
Region 2
Region 3
Region 4
Freelance  (non-voting position)
 
The President, Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer shall also be elected as delegates to the CWA Convention (2019 and 2021) and TNG Sector Conference (2021). 

The terms of office will begin upon election and completion of officer training and run through December 31, 2021.
 
Candidates for Titled Officers may be nominated by any bargaining unit CFI member. Candidates for the regional seats may be nominated by any bargaining unit CFI member from that region. The Freelance position may be nominated by a freelance member.
 
Nominations must be received by April 15, 2019.  Please emails at  [email protected]

Candidates must be members in good standing, accept the nomination in writing and agree to participate in training to be scheduled by the CWA within 3 months of taking office.
 
In the event of a contested race for any position, a secret ballot election will be conducted.
 
To facilitate the end of the Trusteeship, the Temporary Administrator has modified the CFI bylaws to prevent recurrence of issues discovered during the trusteeship. The positions of Secretary and Treasurer have also been combined. A new election has been called because many of the previously elected Executive Committee members no longer qualify to hold office. Further, the law prohibits the CWA from unilaterally extending the terms of officers previously elected even though those members were not installed as officers during the trusteeship. Even if that were allowable, those terms would have ended in December 2019.

Revised Bylaws

 
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