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Court interpreters stage protest
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin ^ | Tuesday, May 17, 2005 | Rod Leveque and Jessica Keating

Posted on 05/18/2005 10:04:39 AM PDT by Buddy B

Court interpreters stage protest

By Rod Leveque and Jessica Keating Staff Writers

Court interpreters in five counties skipped work on Tuesday to call attention to slow contract negotiations that have left them without health insurance, sick pay and pensions.

The one-day walkout hampered business in a few San Bernardino County courtrooms, where judges postponed some hearings for non-English speaking defendants.

Meanwhile, more than two dozen striking workers marched outside the San Bernardino Courthouse at noon, carrying signs telling court administrators to "Interpret This."

"What do we want?" shouted interpreter Antonio Lopez as he led marchers in a circle around a dry fountain.

"Jobs with justice," the crowd roared back.

Interpreters in San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, Orange and Imperial counties participated in Tuesday's work stoppage. Rallies were also planned at courthouses in San Diego and Santa Ana.

In San Bernardino, rally organizers reported that 95 percent of the county's 150 interpreters walked off the job Tuesday in a show of support for a new contract. Interpreters announced the walkout Monday.

"We're here for a righteous cause," said Silvia Barden, president of the California Federation of Interpreters. "We're here asking for things that are fair. We're not asking for anything unreasonable. We're asking to be treated with dignity."

The interpreters earn $265 per day, but do not receive vacation pay, sick pay, health insurance, holiday pay or pensions.

They were considered independent contractors until a state law two years ago reclassified them as court employees. The law provided a two-year-transition for management to create a benefit package. The deadline is July 1.

Yvonne Pritchard, deputy court executive officer for San Bernardino County, said the courts want interpreters to have benefits. But hashing out the details of a new contract has been tedious.

"It's a slow process, but we'll get there," said Pritchard, who heads the committee negotiating with the interpreters.

One snag, for example, has been whether workers will get 13 or 14 paid holidays per year, Pritchard said.

At Tuesday's rallies, union leaders called a vote to authorize a strike. Ballots were still being tallied late in the day, but it appeared the vote had passed, Barden said.

A strike will only be called if negotiations collapse, Barden said.

Lopez, who has worked as an interpreter in San Bernardino courts for eight years, reminded other marchers they represent a service mandated by the Constitution. Without interpreters, he said, there would be no access to the judicial system for those who do not speak English.

"We're hoping they'll see the crucial role we play," he said.

Pritchard said the courts enlisted temporary workers and services that offer interpreting over the telephone to keep cases moving in courtrooms Tuesday.

Still, some cases, such as a mental competence trial for a murder suspect in Rancho Cucamonga, had to be delayed.

Despite the problems the walkout caused, a handful of attorneys at West Valley Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga wore stickers Tuesday proclaiming support for the missing interpreters.

"I didn't know they didn't get benefits," private attorney Roger Remlinger said. "We need these people. I'm all for them."


TOPICS: Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: courtinterpreters; sanbernardino
Southern California, USA story
1 posted on 05/18/2005 10:04:40 AM PDT by Buddy B
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To: Buddy B

"What do we want?" shouted interpreter Antonio Lopez as he led marchers in a circle around a dry fountain.

"Prinkkll manhbbar ktazzzzwa!", the crowd roared back, a dozen jumbled foreign tongues blending in an enraged jumble of unintelligible nonsense.

If you've been in this country long enough to commit a crime, you've been here long enough to learn English.


2 posted on 05/18/2005 10:12:12 AM PDT by Luddite Patent Counsel ("Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - Groucho Marx)
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To: Buddy B

they never should have become court workers it should be "free lance" the government is spending too much money on their own hacks...if it is anything like MA in So Cal these people will end up with a 60% pension like our state hacks...plus no skin off our nose, how many law suits are there where the defendant only speaks one language and the plaintiff only speaks one language (that is not enlish of course)


3 posted on 05/18/2005 10:16:44 AM PDT by grand old partier
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To: Luddite Patent Counsel
If you've been in this country long enough to commit a crime, you've been here long enough to learn English.

Agree...

To serve on a JURY in Washington State you must speak ENGLISH.

...How would a Juror know the interpreter interpreted correctly?

4 posted on 05/18/2005 10:21:08 AM PDT by Buddy B (MSgt Retired-USAF)
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