February 20, 2010

Interpreters collective bargaining bill gets another good hearing in the House

This time it’s on the version that passed the Senate, but the Federation-initiated interpreters collective bargaining bill got another good reception back in the House.

Rep. Alex Wood of the 3rd District even gave the AFSCME Interpreters United activists an over-the-head, double thumbs up before they testified Friday in the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

ESSB 6726 would give the interpreters collective bargaining rights and convene a work group to look at other reforms, including possibly ending the middleman system of brokers that siphons off millions of dollars before it ever reaches the DSHS interpreters.

“Under this state policy, interpreters’ wages have been going down, not just in the short-term because of a crisis, but systematically over the years,” the Federation’s Dennis Eagle told the committee. “Wages are going down under the tutelage of the state in the DSHS system.

“As independent contractors, the interpreters are powerless to do anything about this. They can’t complain, or they just don’t get hired anymore.

“So they’re voting with their feet, leaving the field, the pool of qualified interpreters for medically needy people is diminishing, the department’s forced to lower standards in order to get enough people into the pool….and it’s having an adverse impact on the 160,000 users of this service every year.

“And that’s why the collective bargaining piece is so important to the interpreters. Sure, their wages need to improve, there’s more to it than that. It’s about having a voice, about being part of a team, and banding together to solve problems and promote their industry.”

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