3rd Quarter Membership Report

A message from President Ariel Torrone

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it’s been only ten months since my first day on the job as your local president, when I sent you the following update:

Jan. 5, 2015, 6 a.m. – I’ve managed to shower, shave, down a double espresso and load-up the car to head to our Oakland office. Today is the first day when we, as professional court interpreters, finally get to set our own policies and blaze a trail towards our future. Most of my January calendar is already full and I’m certain that there are many things I won’t get to. There are budgets to review, forms to sign, contracts to renew, emails and calls to return…the list is endless.

But there’s a bright full moon ahead of me as the first light of dawn peers over the horizon behind me. My odometer just turned to 165,000 on this first of many road trips. I’ve got a full tank of gas (fret not, it’s a hybrid) and the future looms large, and very shiny.

Yes, presidential updates are back. CFI is back.
It’s a new day, the first step of a long journey  join us!

A lot has changed since then (and just in case you’re curious – my odometer is well over 190,000 by now) except that things are just as hectic and there’s no inkling that they might slow down. I have been to Florida to see VRI first hand and I am in Miami now to attend a union meeting with interpreters from around the country and the ATA conference.

I ran for office fully aware of the enormous task at hand but blissfully ignorant of exactly how much was involved and all the roadblocks I would find along the way. My vision was, and remains, to bring all interpreters together; to once and for all end the alleged divisions between North and South, employees and independents, CFI fans and CFI detractors, and to forge a statewide coalition among ourselves and present a united front. We need to be united not only to contend with local courts but also the Judicial Council in order to finally make our dream of a statewide contract a reality. Lofty goals, I know. Some might say impossible. But I’m not about to give up on that dream or go down without a fight.

These were and continue to be our ultimate goals, but creating our own Local meant establishing some basic guidelines and becoming operational. After a few days on the job, it also became clear that three items were a priority – money, bylaws, and the conference, in that order. And of course, I also had to dedicate full attention to contract negotiations and member representation throughout the state.

We were happy and proud to reach a contract in Region 4 that gave interpreters 9% in raises over the term of the contract after many years of stagnant wages, but right away PEPRA (the Pension Reform Act) reared its ugly head in San Diego. A new administration in Region 1 brought with it the promise of a new era and yet, the old problems persist. In fact, we’ve had to grieve and revisit old issues with each new manager who wants to reinvent the wheel and ignore our contract. Region 2 became my home away from home and I got to visit places I had never been to before (like Santa Clara and Contra Costa). In Region 3 we’ve had issues to address from El Dorado to Kern, and of course VRI, and I was happy to find out, the Sacramento interpreters can really party! And you know what? With a few exceptions, it’s the same old story everywhere — court administrations that don’t respect our contract or the standards of our profession.  You see, it doesn’t matter where you are — we all do the same work and deal with pretty much the same issues no matter where in the state you might happen to work. That means we’re always busy defending our contracts and representing members. But enough about that, let’s talk about the three additional areas that we have tackled in the past nine months.

Money – Dues Income and Expenses
The struggle to get the courts to deposit your dues into our account is kind of old news by now, but it bears repeating, it was a monumental process. Developing a meaningful budget was not possible given the poor bookkeeping practices of our old local — we had to start virtually form zero. And we had to collect money owed from the old local, something that took many months. How much money we were supposed to collect was an unknown until halfway through the year. I prepared a semi-annual dues report to the board in June. I’m happy to report that with the exception of Madera, Mono and San Mateo, all of the other courts are now either depositing directly into our account or sending us a check.

We have four people on payroll: Eva Vargas and Monserrat Gomez as Northern and Southern membership directors respectively, and Anabelle Garay and Alex Abella as field representatives (North and South respectively). Mary Lou Aranguren is on lost time as statewide bargaining coordinator, and I am the acting executive officer doing administrative work while on organizational leave from Court, as well as overseeing representation, bargaining and policy issues. We have our own lobbyist, Ignacio Hernandez, and two law firms on retainer, Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld to deal with representational and contract issues, and Siegel & Yee for consulting about bylaws and labor issues. 

We’ve had to pay for several arbitrations ourselves, matters that were in limbo during the transition year we were under TNG-CWA’s administration. CWA claims we will start to receive more consistent legal aid going forward. We’ve established a grievance and arbitration committee to decide if cases are to be taken all the way to arbitration and to assess whether the Local needs to incur the cost on its own if TNG-CWA denies us legal assistance.

Those are just a few of the money issues. The Member Center on the new website was launched just before the conference, and is still a work in progress, but in the next week I hope it will be ready to post information for members only.  Expect to see an email soon about how to access the Member Center to view a detailed financial report prepared by our bookkeeping firm (SFBay Financial), executive board meeting minutes, and other developments related to local governance, so please stay tuned.

On July 2nd of this year, members approved the new bylaws. You may recall the bylaws process had been going on for quite some time and we encountered a great deal of resistance from our very own union as to the bylaws provisions. The never-ending saga about CFI, Inc. (our professional division) was filled with misinformation and drama, but we persevered. A bylaws committee drafted the proposed bylaws led by Chair Daniel Navarro, along with Mike Ferreira and Mary Lou Aranguren. We hired an independent attorney to review them (Jane Brunner from Siegel & Yee) and had them vetted by the NewsGuild/CWA. And now, I’m thrilled to say, they are our governing document after members voted by a large majority to ratify the new bylaws. We are one organization that joins our professional division and labor functions into an interpreter-run local with a new unit and a place at the table for independent contractors.
I have always enjoyed our conferences more than any other conference I have ever attended. They are a landmark for us and set us apart. It’s a great time to connect, re-connect and it’s the first step in the long journey to fulfill my lifelong dream of statewide unity. It’s third on my list of items because, much as I love it, it was the least urgent. Without money or bylaws, our conference would have meant very little. I had no time to focus on it and set aside the preparations at the beginning of the year because there was, for me at least, there was no other choice. Fortunately, I am not the only insane human being in CFI (we are many), and I will be eternally grateful to Curtis Draves because he would not leave me alone. He pushed me and pushed me until I finally told him to get off my back because I just could not think of the conference (this was in late April). But not only did he not give up, he did something I never expected — he volunteered to chair it. The rest is history. Anna Behnken joined him, and then Jacobo Gallegos, and then Daniel Navarro…and then everyone else who volunteered and, most importantly, those who attended…a great success with very little advertising and a very brief timeline to put it together. I was perfectly willing to host it at a loss because it’s too important and too significant to our organization, but we even made money.  We did it — once again!

If you attended our Conference in Oakland last month and were happy with the experience, remember what Curtis Draves said responding to the huge applause for his efforts this year, “If you want to thank me, encourage two or three more interpreters to come next year.”

I just put in a deposit at the Biltmore Hotel in LA for next year’s conference, so be sure to join us next October!

Finally, I want to recognize and thank the executive board members, stewards, and members who supported CFI’s activities in so many ways through this first year. There’s always much more to do and more to tell, but that’s all from me for now. See additional CFI news items below.

Ariel Torrone, CFI President

 Steward Training Planned for Southern California                                                                                                                    David Rosenfeld-Stewards Training

The steward training at the CFI Conference was well received and an expanded version is being planned in Southern California. The training, presented by attorney David Rosenfeld of Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld covers a lot of information in a lively format suitable for new and current stewards.                                                                                                                                 

We have added new stewards in several counties this year and we will continue to build and improve the steward network by appointing and training more stewards.                                                                                                                                         

Email us at [email protected] if you’d like to attend the upcoming stewards training, and stay tuned for a date to be announced soon. See our stewards list by county online.

 Notice of Referendum on Dissolution of CFI, Inc.                                                                                                                          

A membership vote will be held to decide whether CFI, Inc., the independent non-profit organization, should be dissolved. Read more

 Self-Study from the 2015 Annual Conference                                                                                                                             

CFI conference attendees receive free self-study activities. Self-study units are also available for purchase. Read more and See CFI Conference Photos on Facebook

 Petition to Increase the Contract Court Interpreter Per Diem                                                                                              

CFI is encouraging both employees and contractors to sign a petition seeking a per diem increase for contract court interpreters. Read more

LAP Update: Interpreter fund surplus continues growing despite plans to expand language services

CFI Representatives, along with legal aid attorneys, community members and interpreters attended and spoke at an October 20th meeting in Los Angeles held to discuss the status of the Language Access Plan (LAP) being implemented by the Judicial Council task force. Read more

Campaign to Report Language Access Barriers

To help us represent your interests and advocate for quality language access, CFI launched a month-long campaign to gather info about language access issues in the courts. Read about what, why and how to document incidents here. Report language access incidents on our website or by clicking here.

Tags: *union, *VRI