United We Bargain, Divided We Beg

by Mary Lou Aranguren
State Certified Spanish Interpreter

Court interpreters in the state trial courts face a number of challenges and changes in the coming months. The projected raise to $265/day is meant to sweeten a bitter pill: the model contract put forward unilaterally by the Judicial Council (JC).

  • The JC is working on a statewide “model” contract for contract interpreters that they expect to have ready in July. As independent contractors, interpreters have limited options in responding to the imposition of a one-sided contract.
  • Language Line, formerly owned by AT&T is actively selling itself as a source of interpreting services in the California courts. The program bypasses certification standards for court interpreting by using interpreters “certified by Language Line.
  • The JC has already chipped away at certification requirements with the ”provisionally qualified” compensation program, and courts throughout California daily ignore good-cause requirements and procedures.

How can we protect our profession? A contract, by definition, is a mutual agreement. But the Administrative Office of the Courts has recommended that the Judicial Council not negotiate with interpreters on rates or policies. The Bay Area Court Interpreters Association (BACI) and the California Federation of Interpreters (CFI) recommend that interpreters not sign a contract that has not been negotiated with interpreters or our representatives.

The two organizations will hold a series of workshops throughout the state in May and June to promote a discussion of court interpreters’ employment status and options, so that interpreters can develop an interpreter model contract. Court interpreters who attend will receive 1.5 hours of free continuing education credits for the workshop portion. “Labor Concerns in the California Courts,” which examines the ins and outs of employee and independent contractor status.

Workshops are scheduled for: May 6, Orange County; May 11, Sacramento; May 18, Sonoma County; May 31, Oakland; June 3, 6 & 8 in Los Angeles County (several locations); June 10, San Diego; and June 17, Monterey. For more information please call BACI at (415) 421-6833 ext. 229.

As part of an ongoing effort to gain a voice and control in professional development and working conditions for court interpreters, BACI has recently affiliated with the Northern California Media Workers Guild/Communication Workers of America (NCMWG/CWA). Los Angeles-based CFI will vote on affiliating with CWA in late May.