SAN FRANCISCO _ Employee interpreters, independent contractors and union activists held “Interpreters do it better in person” signs and chanted outside the Hall of Justice on Tuesday, the second day of rallies in the Bay Area by language professionals advocating for a fair contract and meaningful language access.
Members of the California Federation of Interpreters, a unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, are rallying to send court negotiators a clear message: we want a fair contract that includes reasonable wage terms and guarantees that Video Remote Interpreting won’t be misused.
Members of the Guild Freelancers, court reporters, court clerks and representatives from SEIU and UPTE picketed alongside court interpreters in the rain Tuesday in San Francisco.
Meanwhile in Napa, the four-person crew of interpreters leafletted and received expressions of support from public defenders and district attorneys. Interpreters in Hayward also picketed on Tuesday.
Colleagues in Redwood City and Martinez kicked off a weeklong of picketing outside Northern California courthouses on Monday.
Court interpreters in 15 Northern California counties (Region 2) have been working without a contract for more than a year and authorized a strike. Negotiations came to a standstill after interpreters rejected a tentative agreement earlier this year.
At issue are plans by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to implement Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) without adequate input from legal and language access professionals. VRI would have interpreters working from a remote location, away from the person who requires interpreting. Interpreters and others question how the courts will preserve attorney-client confidentiality, ensure the interpreter isn’t left out of what’s happening in the entire courtroom, the technology to be used and much more.
The other point of contention is the courts’ refusal to offer interpreters any raises after almost seven years without so much as a cost of living increase (COLA) coupled with rising benefit costs. Court interpreters in the Greater Bay Area (Region 2) do not have wage steps like other employees: A veteran with decades of experience earns the same as a brand new employee.
Yet, there’s more money in the state budget and millions in surplus money in a separate court interpreter budget, usable only for interpreter services.
Interpreters plan to rally outside the Superior Courts of Sonoma, Alameda and Santa Cruz this week.
See the schedule here.