Monday, July 24, 2006
Court Interpreters May Go on Strike as Soon as Today
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court interpreters may go out on strike as early as today, the MetNews has learned.
Silvia Barden, president of the California Federation of Interpreters, confirmed Friday that a meeting and strike vote was scheduled for the following day. But she declined to say when such an action might incur.
Presiding Judge William MacLaughlin said he was aware of the scheduled vote but would not speculate as to what the interpreters might do. He added that the court has a contingency plan in the event of a strike, but would not be more specific.
Barden explained that her members are “extremely upset and offended” that while judges and other government officials are getting raises in the mid-to-high single digits—judges are due an 8.5 percent increase Jan. 1—the interpreters have only been offered 2.5 percent after going seven years without an increase and having “to force the courts to give us benefits.”
The latter remark is a reference to the fact that the court considered the interpreters to be independent contractors not entitled to employee benefits, until their status was changed by legislation that took effect in January 2003.
The union this year exercised its right to reopen labor negotiations with respect to two issues. Besides salary, Barden explained, the union wants limited recognition of seniority accrued prior to the effective date of the 2003 legislation in order to permit some members to earn additional vacation time.
The parties have been in talks since mid-May, Barden added.
MacLaughlin said he was uncertain as to the prospects for resolving the dispute. He pointed out that he does not directly participate in labor talks with court employees, although he is regularly briefed by the negotiators.
In a statement, the union said that its members pay “has not kept pace with the market for our skills and services,” adding that “[f]or years the Judicial Council has promised pay parity with Federal Interpreters” whom the union said are paid up to 45 percent more.
“It is time for the courts to do the right thing,” the union said.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company