ASL interpreters at Purple fight for a fair contract

ASL interpreters demo at Purple Communications

DENVER – Negotiations for a first contract for Video Relay Services interpreters at Purple Communications have stalled over safety issues that the company calls “economics.”

Instead of making a legitimate counter to union’s proposal for safer interpreting quotas and professional level wages, Purple negotiators told the union team last week that if they were to counter now with their own wage proposal it would be with something that interpreters would not like.

Predicting that communications companies Sorenson and Z will decrease wages in the near future, Purple negotiator Bob Kane said they will not pay wages considered substantially above the market. Purple negotiators said it’s an economic reality.

“We haven’t claimed inability to pay,” Kane responded when challenged to show the books. “It’s a lack of willingness to pay above the market.”

Translation: Purple can afford to pay decent wages, but the company leadership doesn’t want to see any decrease in profit margin.

This isn’t new. Every time the FCC determines that VRS vendors are making ridiculous amounts of money and makes changes to the program, management insulates itself from decreases by having the people who actually earn that money take the hit.Up until now, management has gotten away with that approach because employees had no real way to fight back. That all changed when four Purple centers – in California, Arizona and Colorado – voted to unionize.

So, fight back we will, and we won’t do it alone.

Video Interpreters will begin their campaign for a fair contract by asking each and every employee at the four unionized centers to show their colors and to take part in other legally protected concerted activities when asked.

At the same time, interpreters will work to enlist the support of the people who can have the most impact on the company’s attitude: Purple’s consumers. They, after all, are the ones who will be most affected by the decrease in interpreting quality caused by the one-two punch of KPI-caused fatigue and injury and the use of uncertified interpreters.

On a more visible front, Purple-sponsored events will now have a new feature: Union informational pickets and leafleters.

To be clear: Members haven’t been asked to authorize a strike, but rather put serious economic pressure on the company in other ways.

It won’t end there. And remember, however long it takes to get a fair resolution, we will last one day longer. This contract has been given a very high priority by the Pacific Media Workers Guild and by the international union. Resources will not be lacking for this campaign.

Also during last week’s bargaining:

  • Management refused to budge on our proposals to soften what we believe to be dangerously demanding performance requirements.
  • To make matters even worse, in yet another blatant attempt to devalue the VRS interpreting profession, management announced that it intends to expand its “pilot program” of hiring non-certified interpreters to all centers.

PMWG ASLIU Unit National Bargaining Committee:

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

Denver AVC Jo Linda Greenfield joined the team for Tuesday’s session.

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Pacific Media Workers Guild

We are the Pacific Media Workers Guild, Local 39521 of The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America. We represent more than 1,200 journalists and other media workers, interpreters, translators, union staffs and freelancers.

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