California Federation of Interpreters

AFL-CIO Western District Conference

AFL-CIO held its 2019 Western District Conference on March 26thand 27th   at the NetZero Electrical Institute in the City of Commerce. Dozens of delegates from Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming were in attendance. 
The purpose of this conference was to bring together unions in an effort to collectively revise and assess the current state of the labor movement in those states. Unit member, Pedro Ramirez-Navas attended the conference as a representative of CFI. 
The opening plenary presented a great opportunity to meet other delegates and to hear reports about some of the most important struggles for workers rights taking place right now. The dreadful feeling of despair and hopelessness that dominates our current political environment quickly disappeared and gave way to an atmosphere of hope and confidence after the first dynamic presentation.  
The delegates were welcomed by Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation and Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO. Gaylan Prescott, Assistant Director of United Steel Workers (USW) District 12, delivered a compelling report about theLucky Friday Mineworkers in Idaho who are on strike, an action that has entered its second year. He explained the deplorable conditions that miners face when they have to descend two miles underground without any kind of safety measures. Mine workers have died in several accidents caused by unsafe conditions. Today 247 miners remain on strike, despite the threats and retaliatory actions of the company. These miners have a saying: “One day longer, one day stronger.” 
The American Postal Workers Union delegates reported on the recent efforts by the Federal government to privatize the postal service. These efforts include the creation of a White House Task Force that generates false financial information.  In its findings, this task force has issued a report that is attempting to create an image of a budget and management crisis in the postal service in order eliminate collective bargaining, reduce wages, raise rates and outsource the services of the USPS.  Of course none of this will happen without a fight. Our sisters and brothers will most definitely need our support. Stay tuned for updates regarding this important battle. 
Perhaps the most important report came from United Teachers Los Angeles. With their recent victory, UTLA together with teachers in West Virginia and other cities and states across the country are being credited with reviving the Labor movement in the U.S. Daniel Barnhart, Secondary Vice President of UTLA, delivered a powerful presentation about the strike. He recalled thousands of teachers taking to the streets, braving the rain and the cold. Several pages would probably be needed to write about this heroic strike that many of us supported in various capacities. We are including a link to a video created by UTLA that will give you a perspective on this powerful strike that made history.
The conference also held several workshops and CFI participated in two of them. The first workshop was titled Power to Win-Worksite Organizing Programs that Deliver. This discussion group addressed essential techniques utilized to organize our colleagues at the worksite.
The second workshop was titled Membership Has Its Benefits: Maximizing the Union’s Value for Members. This group provided useful information for services that our members might find important, such as assistance to purchase a new home, a new vehicle, debt consolidation and even financial assistance for college education. All these services are available to our members through the Union Plusprogram. If you would like to find out more information, please contact your shop steward. 
The conference was an impressive achievement, from lodging to meals, to transportation, to electronic updates and timely sessions. It was a testament to the capacity of the organizers and it gave delegates confidence that there is light at the end of the tunnel. 
The current political climate is against working people, our quality of life continues to decline rapidly and for some it might seem as if all is already lost.  However, there is hope and it is within each and every one of us.  When working people come together we can make history and change the world.  We now know that we can fight, but we must move forward.  Recent developments have shown us that not only we can resist, but we can also win!
In solidarity
Pedro Ramirez-Navas




Call for nominations for CFI Local 39000 officers and Executive Committee members

The CWA Trusteeship of CFI is scheduled to end in June, upon the election and training of new local officers and executive committee members. 
Nominations are now open for the following Titled Officer and Executive Committee positions:
Vice President
Region 1
Region 2
Region 3
Region 4
Freelance  (non-voting position)
The President, Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer shall also be elected as delegates to the CWA Convention (2019 and 2021) and TNG Sector Conference (2021). 

The terms of office will begin upon election and completion of officer training and run through December 31, 2021.
Candidates for Titled Officers may be nominated by any bargaining unit CFI member. Candidates for the regional seats may be nominated by any bargaining unit CFI member from that region. The Freelance position may be nominated by a freelance member.
Nominations must be received by April 15, 2019.  Please emails at  [email protected]

Candidates must be members in good standing, accept the nomination in writing and agree to participate in training to be scheduled by the CWA within 3 months of taking office.
In the event of a contested race for any position, a secret ballot election will be conducted.
To facilitate the end of the Trusteeship, the Temporary Administrator has modified the CFI bylaws to prevent recurrence of issues discovered during the trusteeship. The positions of Secretary and Treasurer have also been combined. A new election has been called because many of the previously elected Executive Committee members no longer qualify to hold office. Further, the law prohibits the CWA from unilaterally extending the terms of officers previously elected even though those members were not installed as officers during the trusteeship. Even if that were allowable, those terms would have ended in December 2019.

Revised Bylaws


Obit: Interpreter Ralph Schurr of LASC

Services scheduled for Thursday, March 27, 2019 

Los Angeles _ Ralph Schurr, a venerable and beloved Spanish interpreter, passed away March 20, 2019 after battling an illness. He was 81.
Ralph served the Los Angeles Superior Court for nearly three decades, most of that time at Inglewood Juvenile Courthouse, before retiring at the end of 2019. 
He contributed his time and talent as a steward for the California Federation of Interpreters and by extending his guidance and assistance to countless colleagues.
“Ralph was a caring, hardworking and patient coworker and friend. He was always willing to help, willing to share and willing to do everything in his power to have a very pleasant work environment,” said colleague Marina Sastre.
With his distinguishing silver hair, Ralph was a gentleman with a strikingly playful side who enjoyed dancing. He was a man of infinite curiosity who loved to read, travel and learn new things. 
In addition to Spanish, he studied Italian and mastered a number of phrases in various languages. Before becoming an interpreter, he had worked at a toy store in Pacific Palisades. 
Ralph, who was born in Santa Monica, had been looking forward to spending his retirement both in Peru, his wife Eva’s birthplace, and in California.
“Ralph is missed greatly but will always remain in our hearts,” said Sastre.
Visitation is schedule from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 27 at Forest Lawn in the main Mortuary Building (1712 S. Glendale Ave.).
Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, March 28 at the Little Church of Flowers (1712 S. Glendale Ave.) in Glendale.



Ending Local 39000 Trusteeship

Message to CFI members 

CWA’s Temporary Administration of CFI Local 39000 will be ending at the end of June following a new election for local officers and Executive Committee members. This decision follows a US Department of Labor review of the Trusteeship.
The DOL review found that the imposition of Temporary Administration (Trusteeship) by the CWA was lawful, but that the original purpose of the Trusteeship – failure to pay per capitas to the national union – had been corrected.
In discussion with the DOL, CWA explained that the Trusteeship had been prolonged by charges against many of the local officers and Executive Committee members who were elected in 2018. CWA did not want to interfere with their due process rights by moving to elections while appeals and trials were still pending. The appeals would have been resolved at the CWA Convention in July and the plan had been to return the CFI to self-governance at that point.
CWA also reviewed with the DOL serious issues of financial malfeasance that were discovered after the Trusteeship was imposed, including misappropriation of money, a lack of financial records and the lack of financial controls. It was suggested that the CWA could end the current Trusteeship and immediately impose a new one to deal with the financial issues.  CWA rejected this idea.
CWA proposed that it conduct new elections and turn the local over to local control as soon as possible.  CWA also proposed a timeline for these elections to the DOL.  The DOL agreed to this plan and the timeline that CWA proposed. One of the unfortunate aspects of this is that individuals who where elected in 2018, who were not charged with misconduct, will have to run again in order to serve.
Nomination for local officers and Executive Committee seats will begin immediately, with secret ballot elections for contested seats to follow.
To facilitate the return to member control, the Temporary Administrator has implemented new bylaws for the local. The bylaw changes include:
  • Combining the positions of Secretary and Treasurer into a single Secretary-Treasurer position.
  • Setting the initial term of office to run through the end of 2021, to put the local back on its two-year election cycle.
  • Barring anyone expelled from membership from holding office, being employed by the local or working as a consultant for the local.
  • Requiring approval the CWA Executive Board to readmit to membership anyone expelled from membership.
  • Prohibiting the executive committee from blanket delegation of financial controls to one individual.
  • Requiring elected local officers and Executive Committee members to attend training conducted by the CWA within three months of taking office.
  • Keeping Ed Venegas employed as a local employee through the end of the year to assist in the transition to member control.
 Revised - CFI Local 39000 Bylaws 2019



Judicial Council Approves VRI Program and Guidelines


SAN FRANCISCO _ Despite caution voiced by interpreters, the Judicial Council approved minimum technology guidelines on Video Remote Interpreting for California courts and voted to establish a VRI program for the judicial branch during its March meeting.

In response, CFI members are working on legislative efforts to establish strong parameters and oversight for VRI in the courts and other ancillary services.

The adopted guidelines are not a requirement for courts but rather a suggested minimum standard, said David Yamasaki, a member of the VRI Workstream group and Court Executive Officer of the Orange County Superior Court.

CFI is not against the limited use of VRI for brief, non-evidentiary and non-complex court hearings when in-person interpreters are not available or to expand language access outside the courtroom, particularly in the interview processes necessary to later in-court proceedings. 

“CFI is against misuse of VRI. We are against utilizing VRI in a way that diminishes meaningful access for Limited English Proficient court users or violates their due process. We are against using VRI for cutting costs at the expense of effective and accurate communication. We are against using VRI so that courts can avoid sharing interpreter resources,” CFI Representative Anabelle Garay told the Council.

During the meeting Friday, Yamasaki characterized the concerns expressed by interpreters and CFI as bargaining issues and added that other interpreter suggestions would become part of a document on best practices being prepared by the National Center for State Courts.

The recommendations to adopt VRI and related guidelines were based on the findings the VRI pilot project carried out last year in Sacramento, Merced and Ventura courts. San Diego State University Research Foundation evaluated the pilot by collecting short surveys from bench officers,interpreters[MF1] [AG2] , limited-English proficient (LEP) court users, and court staff.

Among the key findings:

·     59% of post-pilot survey respondents[MF3] indicated that VRI allowed for meaningful participation for court proceedings;

·     22% of post-pilot survey respondents were classified as neutral on the question of whether VRI allowed for meaningful participation for court proceedings; and

·     cost savings of using VRI could not be evaluated since employee interpreters were used in the pilot program. 

“A much better use of funds would be to invest in growing a solid interpreter workforce so that in-person interpreters are readily available,” said San Mateo Court Interpreter Carol Palacio, who is part of the Region 2 committee that will meet and confer on VRI. 

Interpreters who participated in the pilot program expressed concerns as to whether there were inaccuracies and omissions. They pointed out that VRI is highly prone to error, takes longer than in-person interpreting, and has many technical problems. VRI also adds another layer of difficulty to interpreters’ work by asking us to operate equipment that otherwise would not exist with in-person interpreting. 

CFI also questions whether the surveys given to interpreters could meaningfully measure a VRI event’s efficacy. During the first week of the pilot a 3-page survey was used but it was later parsed down to 5 questions. Interpreters who participated in the pilot admitted that there was not enough time to fill out the surveys given there was only 5 minutes or less between VRI events.

Region 4 is currently bargaining over VRI and Region 2 is expected to meet and confer on VRI soon. Region 3 Courts have a side letter on VRI with CFI.


 [MF1]There is doubt as to whether the surveys given to interpreters were a meaningful measure of VRI event efficacy; for the first week of the pilot the VRI interpreter was given a 3-page survey, and at some moment thereafter it was parsed down to 5 questions on a sheet of paper. Our members who participated in the pilot admitted that there was not enough time to fill them out, or they simply neglected to fill out the survey … given there was only 5 minutes or less between VRI events. At best, survey completion was hit-and-miss among the interpreters.


 [MF3]According to Tyler Nguyen, Angie Birchfield, and other participants in the pilot, interpreters were not interviewed or surveyed at the end or after the pilot project. 

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