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Only one union is fighting for L&I interpreters

IMPORTANT NOTE: There’s been some confusion about the correct link to use to vote in the L&I interpreter union election, which is different than the link used in previous elections. The correct link is:

As independent contractors, the system for distributing and scheduling appointments is the key to our ability to earn a living as L&I interpreters.

Unfortunately, the interpretingWorks online scheduling system adopted by L&I and backed by WFSE has many flaws. Interpreters not only report difficulty securing appointments through interpretingWorks, but some have had to wait weeks or months to receive payment.

Certifying a union to represent us could be a huge opportunity for us to force the state to bargain over the appointment scheduling and distribution system, allowing us to finally have a meaningful say and start fixing this broken system.

However, L&I has taken the position that it won’t have to bargain over the scheduling system even once a union is certified and, what’s worse, WFSE has sided with the state!

When the interpretingWorks system was launched in April 2021, WA INTERPRETERS filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) complaint against L&I for changing our working conditions while our union representation petition was still pending before the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC).

In response, L&I argued in part that implementing the new scheduling system wasn’t illegal because, even if a union is certified to represent L&I interpreters, “appointment scheduling systems is not within the scope of bargaining between the union and the state.” During the PERC hearing on our ULP, WFSE inexplicably backed the state’s position (you’d think a “real” union would want to have something to bargain over).

When PERC determined that L&I hadn’t committed an unfair labor practice, WFSE celebrated, claiming that the interpretingWorks system was “here to stay.”

As recently as this month, WFSE organizer and non-interpreter Ben Sercombe repeated the claim that it would be “illegal” for any union representing L&I interpreters to bargain over the scheduling system.

Unlike WFSE, we didn’t celebrate the state taking away our right to bargain over appointment scheduling. Instead, WA INTERPRETERS stood up for ALL L&I interpreters, fought back and appealed the PERC ruling into Washington state courts, where our lawsuit remains underway.

Regardless of which union you support in the ongoing union election, all L&I interpreters should support our fight to be able to negotiate over the state’s process for scheduling our appointments.

It’s unfortunate that, rather than join our fight, WFSE has chosen to side with the state.

L&I interpreters deserve a union that fights for us, not sells us out. Should you trust WA INTERPRETERS with your support, we can unite to build that union together.

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