Improve working conditions
With a union, we have a voice in contract negotiations and can refuse contracts that do not have fair terms.
A union will give us the opportunity to negotiate for:
  • Fair compensation for travel time and mileage
  • Fair cancellation policies
  • Pay for the full scheduled duration of the appointment
  • Reasonable treatment when we are sick, have an emergency, face inclement weather, or are otherwise unable to make it to an appointment

Establish a mechanism for reporting and resolving grievances
A union will offer a means of addressing grievances without fear of retaliation.

If issues such as a late paycheck, paycheck errors, unfair treatment by providers emerge interpreters can report those issues without worrying about being blacklisted from clinics or losing our jobs. There will be a fair process for investigating complaints.

Ensure compliance with state and federal laws
A union will allow interpreters to refuse to perform tasks they do not feel comfortable with.

Interpreters will not be punished for refusing to perform tasks that may violate state and federal laws.

This could mean:

  • Interpreters will not be asked to do reminder calls in lieu of the individuals tasked with this responsibility for English proficient patients, because this has the effect of providing a service which is different, or is provided in a different manner, than that provided to English-speaking patients, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and because interpreters do not have access to crucial privacy information to be able to adhere to HIPAA.
  • Interpreters will be able to refuse to sit alone with patients and sight translate consent forms to them, when providers would typically provide English-speaking patients a summary of the form and remain present answer their questions.

Establish and ensure adherence to best practices
A union will allow interpreters to have direct input on what standards should be implemented to provide the best quality service. This could mean:

  • Interpreters are informed about the nature of the assignment before they accept, so they can accept only assignments for which they are qualified
  • Interpreters know whether an appointment is simultaneous or consecutive, and only interpreters skilled in simultaneous mode are sent to simultaneous appointments
  • When patients or providers request a specific interpreter for an assignment, that request is honored
  • When patients request a same-gender interpreter for an assignment, that request is honored

Improve the quality of service for Limited English Proficient (LEP) patients and the providers that serve them
A union would ensure that LEP patients have access to a pool of trained, credentialed interpreters

End the “race to the bottom” in contract negotiations between agencies and their clients, which gives the stakeholders most impacted by the quality of service (providers and patients) little ability to report issues, which worsens our pay and working conditions, and which rewards agencies that lower standards while punishing agencies that raise standards

Creating a union stops the current race to the bottom, lets us negotiate directly with the state, and allows us to decide what fair compensation looks like and fight for that in our negotiations. In Washington, wages doubled when a union was formed and the state still saved money, so a significant wage increase is possible. The Washington union has also gotten wage increases as the cost of living goes up.

Agencies compete with one another to make the lowest bid to their clients. The agency that is able to offer the lowest rates and worst working conditions for interpreters (last-minute cancellations without pay, no compensation for travel and mileage, booking an interpreter for an unlimited amount of time and paying for only the time that the interpreter is there, etc) are the ones most likely to win the bidding war and secure the contract. Agencies hire interpreters who are not trained because they can pay them less, enabling them to bid lower.

Incentivize the professionalization of interpreting
The formation of a union would mean jobs go directly to the certified and qualified interpreters in the union first, rewarding us for our investment in the profession.

Many interpreters do not invest in getting Certified or Qualified because they don’t see significant pay increases or more work opportunities. Because only Certified and Qualified interpreters could access union jobs, there would be an incentive to get credentialed with the formation of a union. This would encourage more interpreters to get Certified and Qualified.

Interpreters who have invested in the profession and are already Certified or Qualified would not have to compete with untrained individuals for work; State appointments would go to a smaller pool of dedicated individuals, creating more work opportunities and granting more bargaining power to skilled interpreters who care about the profession.