21 Feb Are You Reading the Headlines?
Have you seen what’s going on in recent news? Freelance court interpreters in Massachusetts and Colorado are mobilized and are saying “no more” to stagnant remuneration and inert policies in their respective court systems. And their efforts are getting the following headlines:
What an exciting time to see court interpreters taking action. There may very well be similar headlines on the horizon from these and other states. While it’s thrilling to see our profession brought to the forefront, it’s a shame that these matters can’t be “kept in the family” and dealt with through good-faith efforts. Too often, however, court systems expect freelance/contract/per diem interpreters not to rock the boat, accept the status quo, and do as they are told.
Nope! Interpreters across this country are fed up. In many states, it’s been too long since remuneration, scheduling systems, and team-interpreting standards, to name a few, were updated. If state governments and court systems refuse to sit down at the table, interpreters are going to act.
And you, dear colleague, you can act now. Support the colleagues in Massachusetts and Colorado. Read our Los Angeles colleagues’ open letter to Governor Newsom and sign the petition in a show of solidarity. Take a look at other states, like those that the NAJIT Board has supported through their advocacy-focused missives, and take a moment to write an e-mail. Consider the courts where you work and take your grievances to your courts’ administrative offices and policy-making bodies.
Here’s a template for a letter of support. Find the relevant parties and send them a note using the following or your own text.
|Dear [STATE COURT ADMINISTRATOR] and [COURT INTERPRETER PROGRAM COORDINATOR],
I would like to express my solidarity with my fellow court interpreter colleagues taking a long-overdue stand for fair treatment by the [STATE] Court System.
Currently, [per diem/contract/registry] interpreters are underpaid and overlooked. Their good-faith efforts so far to engage directly with the [STATE COURT SYSTEM/AOC/LANGUAGE ACCESS PROGRAM] in a constructive, conciliatory, and professional dialogue to address the challenges faced by [STATE] court interpreters has yielded little response.
Both stagnant pay as well as unfair policies raise troubling questions of quality control and pose adverse impacts for the most vulnerable stakeholders in [STATE] courts. Any policy that degrades and devalues meaningful language access in the courts is a step backward; it harms all language professionals by degrading professional standards, undercuts access to justice, and threatens livelihoods.
[STATE] court interpreters have legitimate grievances. They should be heard and addressed urgently.
If you have specific advocacy targets for a particular state or court system to whom such messages should be directed, share them in the comments. Also, share in the comments the local interpreter and translation associations’ contact e-mail addresses so they can be CC’d in those messages.
Change is coming. It’s time to act!
Garrett M. Bradford is a freelance conference and court interpreter based in Maryland. Alongside his excellent colleagues, he advocates for cost-of-living-adjusted compensation and practical policies that promote fair and professional working conditions for Maryland court interpreters.
Main photo: Wake Up, America! poster, from the Library of Congress – no known restrictions on publication. Body image (petition letter) taken from “Contestación del CES sobre Presuntas Funciones Inspectoras de la Futura Gerencia de Atención Primaria del Área Única” by by José M.ª Morán Llanes at the AISSMa.org blog, under the CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 ES license.