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3rd election for L&I interpreters begins soon

We haven’t posted any updates for a while because SO much has been happening the past few months, but we now have some clarity about what’s coming next.

As you know, in December, the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) invalidated the results of the August 2022 runoff election between WA INTERPRETERS and the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) because of the “deceptive campaign practices”—i.e., lying to and misleading interpreters—by WFSE.

Consequently, PERC indicated that a third election would be held. Following PERC’s ruling, we filed a lawsuit with the Thurston County Superior Court asking a judge to determine whether WFSE is even eligible to represent L&I interpreters before we all go through the time and hassle of a third election (remember, WFSE’s bylaws state that its membership consists of local unions it is affiliated with, not employees, and Interpreters United’s bylaws only allow DSHS interpreters to be members).

Although the judge declined to address the issue right now, she indicated that we could challenge WFSE’s eligibility in court again once PERC finishes its proceedings. We don’t think it makes much sense to have another election when one of the two choices on the ballot may not be legally eligible to participate, but here we are. Since all parties have agreed that WA INTERPRETERS is eligible, this won’t be an issue if WA INTERPRETERS wins the next election.

In light of the court’s ruling, PERC has scheduled the third election to begin later this month.

  • The voter information letter with your personal identification number for voting will be mailed by PERC on or around March 20.

  • The voting period is scheduled to run from Thursday, March 30, at 9 a.m. to Thursday, April 20, at 9 a.m.

  • As before, voting will take place electronically through Intellivote, and ballots may be cast online or telephonically

Remember, your vote is confidential; neither WA INTERPRETERS nor WFSE will know whether or how you vote. We’ve been through two elections now and, although we’ve proven that WFSE is willing to engage in deception and misinformation, we have absolutely no reason to believe it has access to the Intellivote system.

An update on our Unfair Labor Practice Complaint against L&I

Once a union files for an election, as WA INTERPRETERS did in November 2020, state law forbids the employer from changing employees’ conditions of employment until the election process is done, at which time the employer must bargain over any changes with the new union.

Consequently, when L&I launched the interpretingWorks scheduling system in April 2021—five months after we filed our petition to represent L&I interpreters—we filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) complaint against L&I.

Unfortunately, a Thurston County judge recently ruled that L&I didn’t break the law by changing our conditions of employment in the middle of the union certification process. To put it bluntly, we think the judge got it wrong, and we’ll file an appeal shortly.

The law is quite clear: For an employer to legally change employees working conditions after a union petition has been filed, the employer must have previously scheduled and announced the changes before the petition was filed. In this case, L&I didn’t announce the implementation date for the interpretingWorks scheduling system until March 2021, long after our petition was filed.

This isn't just a technicality. Our right to bargain over the appointment scheduling process is at stake.

Remember, since WFSE supports L&I in this dispute, WA INTERPRETERS is the only choice on the ballot that is fighting for your right to negotiate with the state over how our appointments are distributed.

Stay tuned for more information coming soon.

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