Court Interpreters Strike For 22% Pay Raise

Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times, September 6, 2007

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Interpreters picketed at several courthouses around the county and pledged to stay out as long as necessary.

“Our services are absolutely indispensable,” said Karen Stevens, a Spanish-language interpreter picketing in front of the downtown Criminal Courts building. “Our work should be recognized.”

About 240 staff interpreters and nearly a dozen contract interpreters did not show up for work as scheduled Wednesday, court spokesman Allan Parachini said.

Judges responded to the strike by continuing cases and rearranging their daily schedules. No courtrooms were closed.

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The Los Angeles County Superior Court also planned, as provided by law, to provisionally certify as interpreters about three dozen court employees who are fluent in another language and have taken some training courses. Parachini said the court is consulting with the general counsel at the Administrative Office of the Courts to determine what step to take next.

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Union officials with the California Federation of Interpreters estimated that more than 90% of the roughly 400 interpreters in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties participated in the strike. Interpreters, who were independent contractors until two years ago, translate in dozens of languages, including Vietnamese, Russian, Armenian and Hebrew.

Japanese-language interpreter Nao Ikeuchi said he could earn a much higher salary working for private agencies or the federal courts. And if interpreters don’t get a graduated salary schedule, Ikeuchi said he might do just that.

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The state Constitution ensures that anyone charged with a crime has access to a court-appointed interpreter. Interpreters often translate for witnesses and victims as well.

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