Candidates Statements

Kristen Nickel

Members of CFI Region 2: 

If we don’t get our act together now, WE ARE TOAST!  With the economic turmoil we are currently experiencing, Region 2 of the Local 39000 CFI MUST STAND UNITED to prevent our profession from descending into the “gig” economy.  It is a small miracle (you can thank your union) that it hasn’t happened already.

The union existed well before I became an interpreter. 18 years ago, the interpreters’ union got a law passed that significantly improved our working conditions and conferred upon us employee status.  As I was still in interpreter school when the bill was signed into law, I was not involved in this watershed moment but I am determined to fight to the end to protect the advances this historic law conferred.

12 years ago, the economy came crashing down and, due to the union, we managed to hang on to our hard-won advances.  With the economy in such dire straits, it was hard to bargain for what we really deserved but at least we got wage increases and even managed to get a 5-tiered pay scale. 

3 years ago, I became involved in leadership as a mobilizer for Contra Costa County.  A fire in the belly for union work was lit.

It is impossible to overstate the degree of economic uncertainty we are facing now, in 2020.  Unions, in general, are weaker than they have been for decades and the profession, in particular, is increasingly vulnerable to descending into the gig economy.  We CANNOT LET THIS HAPPEN.

We are a small union, but we have managed to hold on.  Region 2 needs to unite and rally like our lives depended upon it.  Our livelihood certainly does.  I want to work with old stalwarts and newcomers alike, as well as those who may have stayed on the sidelines in the past.  

Please vote for me for Region 2 Representative, and please… tell a friend.


Kristina Ramsey

My name is Kristina Ramsey and I am running for the Region 2 Representative position because I believe in Region 2’s fighting spirit to protect and strengthen the interpreter profession and want to carry on this legacy.  I am fortunate to have worked intensely for the past year on the bargaining committee and with many of the brilliant minds that have helped forge our careers, create safer conditions, increase language access and raise our wages.  Through this experience I learned a lot about the issues we are dealing with as court interpreters and hope to represent your voices to the best of my ability.

I’ve been interpreting for almost 20 years. Ten of those years were in Oakland, CA at Children’s Hospital where I witnessed the introduction of agency-staffed video remote interpreting.  The volume at a hospital is incomparable to that of the courts, and the interpreting needs were much, much higher.  Needless to say, all providers and families preferred in-person staff interpreters over VRI for effective communication, across the board, be it a simple follow-up appointment or a life and death situation.  My experience in the VRI pilot as an interpreter on video at the hospital (where patients were a building away) and the rolling out of this technology gave me first-hand insight into the issues with video interpretation and the companies that offer this service to the workplace.  First of all, agency (contract) work in the hospitals is essential due to the immense volume of patients and families requiring interpretation, 24 hours a day.  Without this labor force, the hospital would have to hire dozens of interpreters to cover the workload.  This service was previously provided via a language phone line.  The VRI industry touts speed and availability of qualified interpreters, and I was able to observe where these promises fell short in the medical setting.  I once was the only interpreter on duty at the hospital after regular hours and received a request for a Portuguese interpreter.  I dutifully rolled the “I-pad on a stick” as that particular unit was jokingly named, to a surgery holding area for a signed consent to operate.  The mother, the pre-medicated child, the nurse and the surgeon all waited patiently while the system searched for a Brazilian Portuguese interpreter, which wasn’t as instantaneous as the company stated, and when one appeared, the connection quickly dissolved and became impossible to decipher.  The doctor resorted to Spanish interpretation (from me), as the mother had frequently been at the hospital with her child and was comfortable doing so.  Pilot programs utilize state of the art equipment, whereas the final product installation is inferior.  I witnessed countless encounters with VRI and the rolling out of the system in the hospital and the serviceability was very often subpar.  I will employ my experience in VRI as Region 2 faces negotiation of its implementation in our next contract.

I came to the courts full time in 2016 and was elected to serve on the bargaining committee last year.  The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on our profession and many courts have scrambled to take emergency measures in response to closures and social distancing restrictions.  Employee working  conditions have modified  drastically.  Furloughs and layoffs have taken the livelihood of many colleagues and threaten all of us.  The courts have a duty to protect our health and well-being, treat us fairly and abide by our contract, and to provide meaningful language access, even during the pandemic.  I am eager to represent our varied safety needs and interests as we weather this storm, and to uphold our hard-won standards of practice as in-person court interpreters.