Big news for L&I interpreters!
On Friday (12/16/22), the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) agreed with objections that WA INTERPRETERS filed in early September documenting how the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) lied to and mislead interpreters during the two union elections PERC conducted for interpreters over the summer.
After a runoff election is held, PERC rules allow unions to file objections to the way it was conducted or challenging the behavior of the employer or rival unions, which WA INTERPRETERS did when we filed 44 pages of objections and supporting documentation with PERC on September 6.
In its ruling (a copy of the decision is linked at the bottom of this post), PERC determined that WFSE made and repeated several false claims during the election that were so significant that it justified invalidating the elections.
First, to create peer pressure and appear stronger than it actually is (a common WFSE tactic), WFSE claimed repeatedly during the campaign that more than 600 interpreters signed a petition to vote for them. But many people only signed the petition because WFSE indicated that interpreters had to sign to get a ballot and participate in the election.
For instance, WFSE organizer Ben Sercombe (who isn’t an interpreter) texted interpreters claiming that everyone who “wants to vote needs to fill out the Vote Yes Petition.”
But this was a lie. Because eligibility to vote in union elections is based on your “employment status during the election period,” PERC does not “require employees to register to vote.”
Consequently, PERC’s ruling concluded that WFSE’s petition and subsequent claims of broad interpreter support were “deceptive” and “explicitly misrepresent[ed] the Commission’s process and erroneously told employees they must register to vote in the representation election.”
PERC also faulted WFSE for repeatedly insisting that a runoff election could be avoided if WA INTERPRETERS agreed to it. When we pointed out that a runoff election was legally mandatory, WFSE tried to blame us for not having enough time to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with the state before the October 1 deadline.
But in its ruling, PERC reiterated—as we pointed out all along—that because neither union received votes from a majority of eligible voters in the first election, “PERC was statutorily required to conduct a runoff election.” Consequently, PERC determined that WFSE’s “campaign statements that WA INTERPRETERS could withdraw and the implication that automatic certification of Interpreters United (WFSE) would occur was a deceptive campaign practice…”
In all, PERC’s ruling describes WFSE conduct and claims during the election as “deceptive” six different times.
While we included other documented examples of false and deceptive claims made by WFSE during the election, PERC declined to analyze them since they didn’t directly involve PERC rules or procedure and therefore weren’t grounds to overturn the election.
Nevertheless, the ruling from PERC validates what we’ve been saying all along: WFSE simply can’t be trusted.
While we haven’t heard anything yet from PERC about exactly what the next steps are, it looks like we’re headed for another election. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.
In the meantime, while we’ve never shied away from calling WFSE out, we don’t hold anything against interpreters who may have supported them in the past. Unlike WFSE, which just divides interpreters with its false personal attacks, we do things differently. WA INTERPRETERS welcomes any interpreters who are interested in learning more about or joining our movement.
And it is OUR movement. Real L&I interpreters—not paid corporate union organizers—started this process when WA INTERPRETERS filed the first election petition way back in November of 2020, and we’ll be the ones to take it across the finish line.
Let’s end the division and come together to form a union of real interpreters that we can trust to fight for us with integrity.