American sign language interpreters engage in ground-breaking negotiations

Purple Bargaining Update #9

Bargaining on August 6 and 7 led to a flurry of agreements on language for articles to be contained in a first contract between Purple and CWA’s Pacific Media Workers Guild.

Of particular interest is an Outside Activities clause that protects an employee’s right to engage in any outside activity so long as they do not “knowingly compete against Purple or have any ownership interest in a business entity that competes against Purple.” The agreement substantially continues the current policy, under which VIs are able to perform freelance or other interpreting in the community and elsewhere.

Another clause will require the company to provide “training materials and/or workshops, without cost to the employees, that will provide them the opportunity to obtain at least 1.6 CEU credits annually.”

Among other agreements were an extension of maternity/paternity rights to adoptive parents, with a guarantee of five paid days leave; a guarantee that the company will not reduce “workplace comforts” like quiet rooms, coffee/tea and water, break rooms, etc.; a clause that guarantees the four union centers will have internet access at employee workstations if other call centers get that equipment; an article defining management’s rights that are not limited or abridged by the contract; and a union security clause ensuring that each employee pay union dues or equivalent.

Agreement on another article prohibits the requirement of an employee to violate the law, including FCC regulations, or the certified interpreter’s Code of Professional Conduct. The article also requires management to develop, within 60 days of ratification of the contract, a training and proficiency program for new Spanish-platform interpreters similar to the program currently in place for employees in the English skill set. (Currently, there is no such program for Spanish.) Under the article, the company recognizes the value of RID certification and “will support full-time employees’ efforts to become certified” through the contract’s mandated reimbursements for education and professional development.

Despite numerous efforts by the union committee to reach a compromise, the company refused to agree to any form of a union proposal that all new hires must be certified. The company’s stated reason for the rejection was that they need to keep their options open for economic reasons. Union negotiator Lindsey Antle, a veteran interpreter and long-time advocate of certification standards, told the company she is “sad that Purple has chosen to go down this path.” Purple chief negotiator Bob Kane responded that management understood the importance of the issue and has not yet entered that path and wouldn’t unless it was necessary to remain competitive.

Besides the company’s adamant opposition to the proposal, the bargaining team decision to finally drop the matter was partially based on the fact that unions have limited rights when it comes to bargaining over new hires before they actually become employed. The team vowed to keep fighting, with the union’s help, for regulation at the federal level that will require all VRS interpreters to be RID certified. Expecting individual employers – who are in this business for the money – to maintain the highest standards when their profit margin is threatened is unrealistic. The only way to preserve the quality standards of the profession, as validated by certification, is to remove those standards from the field of financial competition.

There are only a few issues left to negotiate in the non-economic package. The union team is hopeful that those will be finished during our next session scheduled for San Diego on August 19 and 20.

We can never say thank you enough times to you, the supporters at Purple who make all of this possible. Thank you.

PMWG Purple Communications Unit
National Bargaining Team:

Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair
Lindsey Antle, Denver: National Vice Chair
Margie Brooks, Oakland: National Vice Chair
Michelle Caplette, Arizona: National Vice Chair
Martin Yost, San Diego: National Vice Chair
Bruce Meachum, PMWG Representative: Chief Spokesperson

Author Image
Michael Applegate

Pacific Media Workers Executive Officer