The California Federation of Interpreters is among the groups elated about the defeat of Prop. 32, a measure that sought to prevent unions from using member dues for political purposes.
Vote counts show 56 percent of California voters said No to Prop. 32.
CFI members helped get the word out about this detrimental measure. Interpreters throughout the state wore buttons, distributed materials, volunteered to phone bank or knocked on doors to defeat Prop. 32.
“Every type of union, from police to firefighters to us … the guild, people all pulled together for this one,” said CFI president Michael Ferreira.
Essentially, Prop. 32 would have prevented unions like CFI from carrying out any kind of political activity using member dues, Ferreira said. Sending CFI leaders to speak to the Judicial Council or hiring a lobbyist to advocate for interpreters in Sacramento would have required donations from members separate from their dues during a time of economic hardship.
“It was a bold face attempt at anti-unionism that would have hurt us,” Ferreira said.
CFI is a unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild and represents nearly 1,000 language interpreters in California, making up a tiny fraction of unionized court employees statewide.
Staff and leaders carry out political activities regularly to benefit CFI members, such as commenting at Judicial Council meetings and going to lobby officials and lawmakers in Sacramento regarding funding, professional standards and other interpreter issues. Dues money and matching funds from our parent union pay for things like travel and hiring a lobbyist to advocate for us.
These activities have yielded great results for interpreters. For example, one of the biggest victories gained by court interpreters happened in the Legislature. SB371 made interpreters court employees and afforded us the right to bargain with the courts.
“A very small group of people are able to affect change through our access to political activity,” Ferreira said. ”That’s why it was so important. This is the only way that a small group like ourselves can get our needs met.