News

A Message from Frank Arce, President of District 9

California Recall Election, Gavin Newsom 

Hello fellow members …

Usually, the local does not send out any sort of requests for supporting candidates in the state or federal elections; for people who wish to participate in the political activity of the union, CWA has a fundraising arm, separate and apart from the dues that are collected. None of your dues is used to make donations to political candidate campaigns. However, our District 9 office has asked us to share the following with all members in all locals. I pass it on for your consideration…

There is a Threat: Well-heeled millionaires who want to roll back worker protections in California are funneling big money into a campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. Let’s be clear: If they are successful, unions will lose many of the hard-fought gains made on higher wages, pensions, funding for public education and other services, laws against discrimination and more. 

To protect union contracts and the ability to provide the services our community needs, the District 9 Headquarters is asking union members to join together in voting NO on the Recall!

Who is behind this Recall?  It is a national network of very rich anti-union funders who are taking aim at union pensions, wages, health care and voting rights. They have spent millions to put this Recall special election on the ballot. Funders like real estate developers, corporate CEOs and anti-union politicians.  

Why? Because they couldn’t win with a union-busting candidate in the last election. They want to control California by pulling a fast one on California’s working folks by trying to steal the governor’s office in a low-turnout special election. [1]

How does the special election Recall work? There are two questions on the Recall ballot. 

First: Should Governor Newsom be recalled?  We urge every union member to select “NO!” 

Second: Who do you vote for to replace Governor Newsom? NONE of them! All the candidates trying to replace the Governor have one thing in common: A long history of attacking unions. Moreover, the candidate with the most votes wins, even if it’s only 10% of votes cast! One of the leading replacement candidates, radio talk show host Larry Elder, even said it’s a “big myth that unions help workers” and said there should be NO minimum wage! 

California’s laws to protect workers are the strongest in the nation. Under our state’s present leadership, coalitions of unions have secured major gains for our members and all workers. But this Recall isn’t really about Gavin Newsom or any one individual. It’s about millionaire funders trying to strip away union wins on wages, health care and pensions just to make themselves even richer. 

We can’t afford to allow wealthy anti-union special interests to seize control of California. The Recall risks undermining the values we share as Californians. Join the union effort in saying NO to the anti-worker Recall! Learn more at NoAntiWorkerRecall.com.

We can stop the power grab. Ballots will be mailed out around August 16. Watch your mailbox for your ballot and join other union members by returning your ballot right away (no postage necessary) to vote NO on the Recall! To do otherwise is to condemn union collective bargaining rights and right to representation at the workplace to the dustbin of history. It eliminates the safeguards between you and your public employer … your voice and vote on matters in the workplace will be no more, should Gavin Newsome be recalled.

That said, there is an organizing group within CWA’s District 9 who are sending out a clarion call for members to help turn back this recall, and thereby turn back the subsequent anti-union legislation and state level policies that remove union representation in the public sector in California. Please get in touch with one of the three regional coordinators to find out how you can be of service to yourself and others in this endeavor:

Southern California Regional Coordinator
Vanessa Meza
Local 9509 San Diego
619-370-3317
 [email protected]

Central Valley Regional Coordinator
Fidel Andrade 
Local 9333 Modesto 
209-761-2200
[email protected]

Northern California Regional Coordinator
Heladio Salvídar 
Local 9421 Sacramento
(916) 601-9525
[email protected]

The Regional Coordinators are urgently searching for volunteers in their areas who could help them recruit volunteers for phone banking and text banking CWA members on Mondays and Wednesdays, phone banking with the California Labor Fed on Tuesdays & Thursdays, and Literature dropping with CLC's on Saturdays.  Please return their calls as soon as possible if they leave you a message.  There is a very short window between now and Election Day to get this work done and it can't be done without the help of every union member in the state.  

Please click on this link https://actionnetwork.org/forms/stop-the-recall-phonebanks to volunteer to phone bank our CWA members on Mondays and Wednesday.

Click here  https://calaborfed.org/2020-clc-election-phonebank-and-gotv/  to volunteer for Saturday Lit Drops at a CLC near you.  



[1] IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE SAME MILLIONAIRES WHO ARE FUNDING THIS RECALL ELECTION ARE ALSO POISED TO SPONSOR A REFERENDUM TO ABOLISH PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS IN CALIFORNIA … CFI LOCAL 39000 TNG-CWA IS A PUBLIC SECTOR UNION. WE ARE HEADED FOR AN EXISTENTIAL CRISIS IF GOV. NEWSOME IS REMOVED FROM OFFICE IN THIS RECALL, THEREBY PAVING THE WAY FOR ANTI-UNION FORCES TO GET A FOOTHOLD ON THE GOVERNORSHIP AND IN DOING SO, GAIN LEVERAGE TO PASS THEIR ANTI-UNION AGENDA, PARTICULARLY THE ABOLITION OF PUBLIC SECTOR LABOR ORGANIZATIONS.

 

Not Going Quietly

Although this may be mostly for our members in the Los Angeles area, and even though this is a bit last minute, we wanted to share that one of our CWA member-organizers is the subject of a documentary that speaks to social justice issues … one of the three points of our CWA union triangle. We invite you to click on the links and attend the film’s opening, if you are confident to go out at this time. If you are unable to get to a showing of the film, like many other documentaries and entertainment films, it may soon be on streaming services and other outlets. We encourage everyone to watch and be inspired by our brother, Ady Barken.
 
In unity, 
 
Michael Ferreira
President

======================================================================================================= 

Dear Local Presidents,
 
I apologize for the last minute notice, but I wanted to let you know about a new film that is premiering tomorrow, Thursday, August 12th and will run all week.  The film will be shown at the Town Center 5 (17200 Ventura Blvd UNIT 121, Encino, CA 91316).  You can purchase tickets here
Not Going Quietly is an inspiring documentary about community organizer, activist, and CWA member Ady Barkan. After being diagnosed with ALS, Ady committed himself to using what time he has left to travel across the country on the Be A Hero Tour to fight for healthcare access for all and encourage voter turnout.  Click here to see the trailer on  Not Going Quietly
 
In unity,
 
Liz Sorenson, Area/Political Director
CWA District 9
 

Mandatory Vaccination Proof for Continued Employment – It Was Bound to Happen 

Many courts around California have sent out notices that for continued employment one will have to show proof of vaccination. The local has been inundated with contacts asking what the union is going to do about this. This communication is our attempt to make things as clear as possible for the membership concerning what the union can and cannot do in this instance. 

Our legal team has counseled us that the courts are able to do this, and as essential workers who deal with the public, we can be compelled to present vaccination proof for COVID-19 for continued employment. Although the union is not in the position to tell people what personal decisions they must make concerning healthcare choices, we are not encouraging our members avoid getting vaccinated. We are encouraging our members to follow public health guidelines as to the best preventative measures against infection, one of which is becoming vaccinated. Still, the choice is yours

The union can only explain what the consequences of those choices will be. According to the communications that we have received so far (most notably from Los Angeles and Sacramento courts), the outcome for not proving vaccination for COVID-19 would subject an employee to dismissal. It should be noted that the starting date for having to prove vaccination seems to be upon FDA full formal approval of one of the vaccines presently in use, or within a finite period counted from the date of full approval. (For LA court, 45 days counting from full FDA approval is the deadline) The FDA has still not given formal approval for any of the present vaccines in use. No court has indicated that anyone must provide proof right now. However, if your court is requiring proof right now, not waiting for full FDA approval of a vaccine, please contact the local immediately. We presently have meet and confers scheduled with Los Angeles (Aug. 12) and Sacramento (Aug. 18) courts over the issue. This is a change in policy and no court may proceed until the union has had full opportunity to treat the issue in a meet and confer.

In the communications received so far, there are specified what would be exemptions:

  • A “sincere religious belief” that precludes them from receiving the vaccination. Presently, no court has told us what the criteria would be for determining if the “sincere religious belief” precludes vaccinations, nor to which department one addresses the issue. It is unclear as to whether there would need to be documentation or some other affidavits.
  • A medical condition that impedes receiving the vaccines presently available. It seems that to receive this exemption one would have to solicit accommodations through Human Resources (for Los Angeles, the Disability and Leave Management department – Eric Penner), just as one would do in requesting accommodations for any other medical disability or impairment. To date it is not clear what would be needed in the physician’s note and what other documents may be needed to support one’s claim. 

We will update the membership regarding these exemptions as more information concerning the process becomes known. It will most likely be similar throughout the different courts.

What is the union’s position on this policy?

No one loses employment based on vaccination status. There are alternatives already being employed by governmental and public agencies throughout the state to allow for unvaccinated to be in the workforce.

In both the state employee directives, as well as for Los Angeles County and City, there is a set of protocols for non-vaccinated employees requiring that they be tested once a week, and that they continue to practice social distancing, masking regulations, and other safety measures within the workplace. This seems to be a reasonable solution for our workforce as well; there is no defensible argument to fire an employee for non-vaccination if other governmental and state agencies are allowing their workers to re-enter the workplace under stricter requirements, to include weekly testing. The union will be presenting alternatives to losing employment, including this one already being practiced around the state. We do this because we represent everyone in our local … without reservation.

In the end, with the constantly changing nature of this pandemic, the appearance of riskier more virulent strains, such as the Delta and Lambda variants, these policies may change or become more stringent. 

As we become aware of developments, we will endeavor to keep our members informed.

Stay well; stay safe.

In unity, 

Michael Ferreira
President

 

 

UPDATE MEET & CONFER BETWEEN THE UNION AND ADMINISTRATION

Extension of Telework for Interpreters
 
The Union and the Court had a productive Meet and Confer session this morning, Thursday, July 29th. CFI expressed appreciation for the Court’s decision, announced yesterday, to extend telework for an additional thirty days, and related to Management the outpouring of relief and appreciation from the membership that immediately followed the Court’s announcement.
 
CFI attorney, Laurie Burgess, joined us for this Meet and Confer session, and expressed gratitude for the Court’s decision to take the time to approach the question of return to on-site work in a thoughtful and meaningful way, given the life and death nature of the situation. 
 
All parties to the Meet and Confer agreed that this extension period allows for a continued conversation about how to provide for and improve upon workplace safety in a time of COVID, both for those currently working on site and in terms of a planned and sensible transition process for those returning to on-site work in the future. 
 
In addition to the interpreters, the Court has extended telework for other employee groups for whom teleworking also continues to be feasible, while yet other employee groups have been required to remain on or return to on-site work. The Court reminded the Union that any employee on telework -- teleworking managers included -- can be called to report back to work in the courthouse if there is an on-site need.
 
The Court asserted that it is still encouraging 6’ social distancing where possible, especially in areas where people will be removing masks to eat, although it is no longer mandated by the Department of Public Health. The Union pointed out, however, that according to different public health agencies, there is a distinction in the indicated protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. While CFI applauds the universal mask requirement within courthouses, the Union believes that since the vaccination status of members of the public and employees alike will be unknown, the safest course of action is to keep the higher level of protocols in place, meaning that, as specified by the CDC, 6’ social distancing should continue to be a requirement.
 
CFI recommends this for everyone’s protection, not just interpreters, but the point was made clear that the unique way interpreters work also requires an additional level of protective protocols. Interpreters often visit multiple courtrooms daily and, in some cases, especially for OTS interpreters, multiple courthouse locations, bringing us in contact with more people in a day than any other employee group. The nature of interpreters’ work also often requires greater physical proximity to the individual receiving language services than is required of any other employee or Court partner with whom these court users interact. 
 
The Union asked whether the Court is looking into which types of proceedings may be feasible for remote work as an accommodation option through the Department of Leave Management for interpreters at high medical risk. Although the Court could not provide a definitive answer at this time, the issue is still an active part of the conversation. 
 
The Union was made aware of some enhanced safety measures that have already been implemented by the Court in response to on-site safety concerns interpreters have expressed to Management, including:

 

Plexiglass barriers in lock-up
 
Sheriffs agreeing to place headsets on custodies where safe to do so
 
Provision of 2-way devices with 3 headsets each for lock-up interviews 
 
In our conversation it was acknowledged that the two-way devices can also be used for witness testimony to avoid unnecessary physical proximity.
 
Jurors are only being allowed into the courtroom one panel’s worth at a time.
 
For contact tracing, all interpreters on-site at the time of a positive COVID report, including floaters assigned on a given day, are being contacted by Supervisors to ask whether those interpreters had been in the proximity of the COVID positive individual.
 
If an interpreter informs a supervisor or manager that the lounge area seems too crowded, an alternate waiting area will be provided.
 
Management reiterated that the Court wants to hear of any impediments to a safe and healthy workplace, and again expressed the shared desire to actively address and resolve any hazardous conditions. Management also wished to remind the membership that they can only address issues of which they have been made aware, so ask that interpreters please speak up.  They assured the Union in no uncertain terms that members need not fear retaliation for bringing an unsafe working condition to the attention of Management.
 
To review, the procedure to follow in case of an unsafe working condition -- whether COVID-related or otherwise -- is to contact one’s Supervisor. If the Supervisor is not available at that moment, contact Language Access Services Management directly. The Union suggests that if the communication is telephonic, the member who experienced the hazardous condition should follow-up with an email to the Supervisor and/or Manager with whom they spoke, and CC the Local, so that all parties are in the loop and able to help facilitate a solution. 
 
An overarching part of this process, not unlike conversations happening in other workplaces, is the identification of the ways in which the workplace has changed because of the pandemic. Due to the evolution of the workplace to meet the challenges of the past year and a half, what newly feasible options have emerged both for accommodation purposes, and as potential new and more effective routine ways of handling certain types of proceedings and interpretation events? This potentially fruitful conversation is ongoing.
 
CFI was assured that the information presented, and concerns raised in the Meet and Confer meetings between the Union and Management are taken back to Court executive leadership, i.e. the decision makers, and that materials provided for review will be passed on as well. 
 
The Union and the Court agreed to meet again approximately two weeks prior to the new planned return to on-site date, yet undetermined, to continue assessing the changing pandemic situation, as well as addressing the various issues raised in a spirit of collaboration in creating the safest, healthiest, most supportive workplace for interpreters to effectively provide the highest level of language access possible.
 
In unity, your Meet and Confer Team
 
Kathleen Sinclair
Gabrielle Veit-Bermúdez
Roxana Cárdenas
Mónica Almada
Michael Ferreira
 

 

UPDATE MEET & CONFER BETWEEN THE UNION AND ADMINISTRATION

Termination of Telework for Interpreters

On Thursday morning, July 22nd, the Union met with Administration for the second in a series of Meet and Confer sessions to request an extension of telework based on the recent spike in new COVID cases in Los Angeles County and the emergence of the extremely contagious and virulent Delta variant. 

Considering recent public health developments, together with the Court’s decision to eliminate social distancing and cease to limit the number of people in the courthouse, the Union asked that the interpreters currently on telework continue to telework until the current spike in L.A. County has been brought under control. This is allowable under the emergency telework agreement entered into between CFI and LASC in May of 2020 for the purpose of minimizing exposure to COVID. The agreement already provides for an additional 120 days of interpreter telework at the Court’s discretion after the lifting of the Department of Public Health’s declared state of emergency. 

The Court indicated that it intends to proceed with across-the-board elimination of telework for interpreters under the emergency agreement. In response, the Union requested that at the very least, the most vulnerable and those still experiencing the greatest COVID impacts related to dependent care be kept on telework or partial telework, where applicable. These include those interpreters who are at high-risk, those few interpreters who, for medical reasons, are precluded from receiving the currently available class of vaccines, and those with dependent-care issues.

Points raised by the Union included:

  • Remote interpreters are presently being used extensively and with success in various areas, including Children’s Court, mediations, probate, and civil matters, and for simple proceedings such as continuances in both criminal and civil courtrooms. There continues to be plenty of work which lends itself to the use of telework, so that at the very least, interpreters who are the most vulnerable or dependent care impacted can meet the needs of the Court remotely.
  • Since the Court has full ability to keep teleworkers off-site under the current emergency teleworking agreement, why incur the added liability of bringing them back on-site, especially those with particularly vulnerable conditions, and those working in locations apt to be particularly contagious, such as Children’s Court which will most likely have an exceptionally high percentage of users present who are unvaccinated due to age limitations on the current vaccines.
  • The Presiding Judge has issued an order allowing the continuance of certain Criminal trials for 2 weeks, and Juvenile trials for 4 weeks.  Why not provide an extension of similar length to interpreter teleworkers in the interest of health and safety?
  • The Court is encouraging litigants to appear remotely where and whenever possible.  In these cases, however, those interpreting for them must be on the same audiovisual platform whether at home or in a courthouse, because of the complex audio environment and nature of interpreting in remote hearings.
  • Should it have the will, the Court has a variety of creative solutions at its disposal to employ any of these potentially life-saving strategies: Interpreters can be brought back on site gradually to allow for the most vulnerable to be the last to return; temporary hybrid part on-site/part off-site assignments could aid in reducing the amount of exposure time in the workplace; our most vulnerable colleagues could remain on telework with periodic review and risk assessment.
  • The Union’s request is for the extension of at least some of the current temporary telework assignments under the emergency telework agreement that is currently in effect. This conversation is not about creating or converting current telework to regular telework assignments, which would be an entirely different discussion.
  • If a continued telework option does not exist during this dangerous phase of the pandemic, the Court stands to lose the services of those who are medically unable to vaccinate or who, for other medical reasons, will be forced to utilize one of the medical leave options to avoid the increased level of exposure created by the elimination of distancing and removal of courthouse occupancy limits. It would serve the Court far better for these individuals to remain on telework for the time being, and thereby continue to be available to meet Court needs.
  • Other large, public entities are taking a more sensible approach:
  • L.A. County is allowing extension of telework for employees in some areas of County employment.
  • Alameda Superior Court is keeping the small number of teleworkers with an exceptional medical vulnerability to COVID on telework for the time being, with periodic check-ins regarding whether to return on site.
  • There is no reason LASC can’t employ some of these strategies to protect its interpreter employees. It is wholly within the Court’s power and ability, under the emergency telework agreement of May 2020, to extend telework assignments for up to 120 days past the lifting of the Department of Public Health’s emergency order (something that still has not happened).
  •  We do not want to see any more colleagues die.

The Court’s responses to our requests:

  • The on-site need has doubled with the end to both social distancing and limits on court users allowed on site at a given time; therefore, the Court needs all of those currently teleworking back on site.
  • The Court is ending teleworking for interpreters at this time. The Court is unwilling to extend any consideration under the teleworking agreement for those who remain at higher medical risk if exposed to COVID, nor those whose medical condition precludes them from the presently available vaccines.
  • The Court is not willing to take into consideration any COVID-related dependent-care impacts to interpreters in the decision to end telework.
  • The Court clarified that anyone with a medical vulnerability that contraindicates on-site work should go through the Department of Leave Management (DLM) and the interactive process to determine whether an accommodation may be made.
  • The Court indicated that those with child-care scheduling issues, or reduced school day hours due to COVID impacts or any other reason can address those temporary scheduling needs through the RTO process, via their Supervisor and Management.

This is not the end of the conversation. There were a number of questions the Union put to the Court between the first and second meet and confer sessions that the parties have yet to discuss in depth. The Union will meet and confer with the Court again next Thursday, July 29th. We are still hopeful that some progress can be made in the effort to provide for safe working conditions for interpreters.

Our bottom line, which we expressed in no uncertain terms to the Court, is that we do not want to see any more colleagues die because the Court was unwilling to provide an adequate – and absolutely available – alternative to on-site work during this new and   dangerous phase of the pandemic, in particular for those among us especially vulnerable to and impacted by COVID-19 and its more dangerous variants.

In unity, your Meet & Confer Team

Kathleen Sinclair
Mónica Almada
Gabrielle Veit-Bermúdez
Roxana Cárdenas
Michael Ferreira

 

 
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