Victory for video interpreters: first contract


Bargaining update – final

Ratification votes complete

Denver, CA —  All four ASLIU centers have voted to ratify contracts with Purple Communications. The union contracts are the first in the nation for American Sign Language video interpreters.

The ratification votes were held last Monday in Oakland, Wednesday in San Diego, Thursday in Arizona and today in Denver. The uncounted ballots from the first three were placed in secure envelopes with a unit member’s signature across the seal. Each center’s sealed votes, plus the Denver ballots, were counted separately this evening by members of the Denver unit. The contracts were ratified with only one “no” vote among all four centers.

Employees in the four centers voted to unionize in late 2012, with negotiations beginning March 5, 2013. The four units are part of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, Local 39521 of the Communications Workers of America.

Many of the VIs who voted expressed delight in the contract even though the negotiations did not yield the hoped-for reduction in log-in requirements or any change in wages. As Liz Keyser of Denver put it: “We understand that this is a first contract and that, with only four unionized centers, we didn’t have the power to convince the company to modify its positions on those issues. But we still got a lot of things we didn’t have before. And we will do even better when the contract comes open again.”

Martin Yost, a San Diego VI who is now working as an ASLIU representative agrees. “This is not just a big win for us,” said Yost. “It’s a big win for our profession. We will keep growing stronger because employees at other centers and even other companies will see that they needn’t fear organizing and fighting for better working conditions.”

Among the protections of the four identical contracts are:

  • A provision requiring the company to have just-cause for any discipline.
  • A grievance and binding third-party arbitration procedure.
  • A cap on log-in requirements at their current rate.
  • A change in the requirement to meet utilization within 2% of peer utilization to 3% plus a review to determine the causes if an employee falls short.
  • A procedure to follow in any layoff.
  • Overtime pay after 8 hours unless an employee voluntarily opts for shifts up to 10 hours
  • FMLA-style leave to apply to each center, regardless of the number of employees.
  • A process to report criminally abusive callers to the authorities.
  • Time for meetings and unscheduled work interruptions to be removed from VRS production.

The ratified contracts become effective April 1.


National Bargaining Committee:

Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair

Lindsey Antle, Denver: National Vice Chair **

Laurie Rivard, Oakland: National Vice Chair

Michelle Caplette, Arizona: National Vice Chair

Martin Yost, San Diego: National Vice Chair

Margie Brooks, At-Large member

Bruce Meachum, PMWG Representative: Chief Spokesperson

**Lindsey Antle has left Purple Communications with our best wishes. Liz Keyser has taken Lindsey’s place as Denver National Vice Chair.

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Michael Applegate

Pacific Media Workers Executive Officer

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