EC has no authority to consider withdrawal of interpreter unit

An item on the agenda for Saturday’s meeting of the Executive Committee, which simply says, “Authorize negotiations PMWG-CFI-TNG, is out of order.

This item to “authorize negotiations” refers to the possibility of the CFI, the interpreters’ bargaining unit, withdrawing from the local. Sources affirm that although withdrawal is not the only option to be considered, it is “on the table.” Yet the EC does not have the power to consider this option.

In the first place, the Executive Committee has the authority only to “administer affairs of the Local, but shall make no decision permanently establishing general policies.” The term, “executive” means that it merely executes decisions of the policy-making bodies of the local, which are the Membership, which is the supreme authority, and the Representative Assembly. However decisions by the Assembly must also come from the membership, which elects delegates to carry out its wishes.

In the second place, the individuals making the request, the board of directors of the CFI, do not have the authority to either bring the proposal of withdrawal before the EC, nor to negotiate any structural changes on behalf of the membership. The membership has not given the CFI any such mandate.

In order for the CFI to bring any proposed withdrawal before the EC, it would first have had to submit a detailed proposal to the membership. This proposal would probably be over 100 pages long and include:

1. A thorough explanation of the reasons for the proposal, including different alternatives

2. Complete financial reports and projections, including estimates of the costs of setting up a new local (staffing, overhead, professional services, amounts to go to the CWA). It would also need to consider dues, and take into account the possibility that interpreters refuse an agency fee agreement or decide that political activities will be funded by voluntary donations.

3. An analysis of how any withdrawal would affect interpreters’ current and future contract bargaining.

4. Proposed structure and bylaws.

After preparing this proposal, the CFI would have to call five regional membership meetings and put the proposal on the agenda. But since it would be too lengthy to consider at a meeting, it would have to be sent out to the membership ahead of time so that people could meet together and study it. At the membership meetings, someone would make a motion, someone would second the motion and the chair would call for debate. Then if it went to a vote, the proposal would fail, carry or be referred to a referendum or other committee.

After all of these procedures had been followed, if the proposal were approved by the membership, then members would instruct the CFI to bring it to before the Executive Committee. Then, and only then would the EC be authorized to consider the proposal.

Form LM-2 Labor Organization Annual Report

WARNING: If you are one of those people who are content to receive only as much information as it suits the union officers  to give you, if you think that the salaries and travel expenses of your employees is none of your business, if you trust that officers will always administer your dues money wisely without any oversight on your part,


The Department of Labor, however, thinks that you DO have a right to know all about the income and expenditures of your union. That is why it created a Web site where you can access the LM2 Labor Organization Annual Report. The local’s file number is 036-746. But to save you the trouble, here is the 2013 LM2 filing of Local 39521.

DOL LM2 2013

DOL LM2 2012

Torrone accuses Hall of “pulling the plug” on interpreter unit

Claims this is a horrible blog

Responding to a Feb. 10 letter from Executive Officer Carl Hall, which informed the CFI that the local will no longer fund its Professional Division, Ariel Torrone angrily accused Hall of trying to destroy the bargaining unit. Here is what Torrone wrote:

Ariel Torrone: Not a newbie.

Ariel Torrone: Not a newbie.

[Y]ou, Mr. Hall, don’t get to unilaterally pull the plug.  Our bylaws and our affiliation agreement clearly lay out the relationship CFI has with this Local. You cannot abandon your duties.  It has been that way since April of 2001 and nothing has happened that would cause that relationship to change other than your perverse desire to destroy the interpreter unit.

In reality, what Hall had written was this,

I am directing Local office and field staff to focus our efforts on our union work, specifically negotiation and enforcement of our labor agreements. We can no longer subsidize professional division meetings or programs. Nor will we subsidize anyone’s travel or other costs to attend Professional Division meetings, unless we authorize those expenses in advance in order to facilitate conduct of union business.

Thus, it appears that the local is terminating support for professional conferences, trips to Sacramento (including paying CFI members for time off work) and, presumably, the CFI lobbyist. He has said nothing about defunding or otherwise harming the bargaining unit.

In an attempt to shore up support for his battle to keep the Professional Division funded, Torrone is visiting courthouses to meet with interpreters. A meeting on Friday at the Compton courthouse saw the usual CFI bullying on full display. One member was card-checked twice and then repeatedly attacked by the chair of the meeting, but when that same member attempted to bring up David Sweet-Cordero’s proposal for discussion, Torrone claimed that it wasn’t a union meeting. At the end of the meeting, the member proposed a date for the next shop meeting, to which Torrone replied that he couldn’t make it on that day. It seems that in his mind, workers can’t meet in their own workplace unless he is there; however, when he is there, it isn’t a union meeting.

Bargaining Committee member Jeff Wilson explained how important lobbying is to insure funding for interpreters is not spent on other things. When asked why they didn’t request voluntary donations to support those activities, he said that interpreters were too apathetic and unaware of what was going on to support lobbying voluntarily. He cited several examples of disinterest and lack of support for the CFI by interpreters.

Torrone’s letter to Hall also took aim at this blog:

Since the last time I emailed the EC I have been told confidentially, by several of its members, that they do not share your ideas when it comes to the way CFI has been treated. Specifically, they want to distance themselves from that horrible blog that bears the name Pacific Media Workers. It has been my suspicion for some time that you, Mr. Hall, have been behind the gestation of said blog, have supplied it with information or just plainly failed to disavow yourself from it. I need not be suspicious any longer, since the last posting (Feb.10th) not only expresses the same ideas you put forth in your letter, it bears the same date.  Try as you may, you cannot run from that blog any more.  Either directly or indirectly, it is your responsibility.

For the record, Carl Hall has nothing to do with said blog, as is stated on the About page. It was created by rank-and-file media workers and interpreters. If the bullyboys in the CFI don’t find it to their liking, they have only themselves to blame. They are trying to keep interpreters from reading and considering David Sweet-Cordero’s proposal, and that is plainly undemocratic.

For the amusement of our readers, we are publishing Torrone’s final warning to Hall, written in the grandiose, self-important style that has become his trademark:

 Though I hate to be repetitive, I fear I must. CFI will fight vigorously to ensure our bylaws and affiliation agreement are respected and complied with. We have been a hugely successful unit of this Local, bringing a large number of members and a vast contribution in union dues. We are neither newbies nor outsiders and will neither be bullied nor intimidated by your tactics.

San Francisco: Rally to support Korean railway workers Feb. 25

South Korean consulate disrupts solidarity rally for Korean rail workers

On January 17th, 2014, the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee held a rally at the South Korean Consulate in San Francisco in defense of the Korean Rail Workers Union (KRWU). In retaliation, the South Korean Consulate, in cooperation with the US State Department, mobilized conservative Koreans and veterans from the North West Korean American Veterans Association to disrupt the rally.

The right-wing Koreans chanted “We Love Park Geun-hye,” “Unions Suck,” “Go Back to North Korea” and “Kill the Communists,” and physically threatened a Korean union supporter. The Consulate also orchestrated media coverage from sympathetic journalists.

The KRWU waged the longest rail strike in South Korean history in December 2013 against a privatization drive by the right-wing government of Park Geun-hye. The Park government declared the strike illegal, put out arrest warrants for the union leadership and forced them into hiding.

On December 22nd, 2013, the Park government then assaulted the offices of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) with 5,000 police, who used tear gas and pepper spray on protesters. 120 unionists were arrested and the government succeeded in breaking the strike. Arrest warrants are still out for the union leadership and the government intends to continue with the privatization drive.

A General Strike has been called by the KCTU for February 25th. Another rally in support of Korean workers will take place in San Francisco at the Consulate on that same day.

Proposal to separate the CFI professional division from the local

by David Sweet-Cordero

I am proud to be an interpreter and I am also proud to be a member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. I think the Local needs interpreters and I believe interpreters need the Local. I believe in the union, in unity and in solidarity, and I believe the future of the union movement depends on transcending superficial differences among workers, building alliances across trades and working together for a stronger union.

I have become extremely concerned about recent events and actions taken by the leadership of CFI, as I believe they are detrimental not only to our union local, but to interpreters and the membership of the Local in general. During my recent tenure in the bargaining committee for Region 2 (I resigned in June of 2013, following the rejection of the first TA), as a Steward for Contra Costa Superior Court and as a regional delegate to the RA for CFI’s Region 2, I have had an opportunity to become acquainted with the militant mindset and tactics of a small group of key players that drive the organization and are responsible for the intransigent and intractable positions of CFI in its dealings with the Local.

Although the hybrid structure that was negotiated for CFI in the original affiliation agreement with the Local appears to have granted CFI its special status in a spirit of respect, generosity and good will, it has allowed CFI to thrive as a quasi-independent entity within the Local, with privileges, expectations and objectives that are out of alignment with those of the rest of the Local, specifically, and of the union movement, in general. CFI has become a rogue organization, driven by a misguided belief in absolute self-rule. Its leaders are not simply incidentally ignorant of the Local’s bylaws, but willfully and systematically refuse to abide by them. CFI’s anti-union stance creates confusion among members and unwittingly undermines members’ sense of faith in and ownership of CFI, as well as the Local. CFI leadership has actively sought to keep unit members ignorant not only of key issues affecting the Pacific Media Workers Guild, but of the very existence of the Local: incredibly, many members have been unaware of the very fact that CFI is a unit of the Local.

This hostile, isolationist mindset goes beyond simple stubbornness and borders on serious neglect and incompetence, as exemplified by the fact that the organization has jeopardized its non-profit status with the IRS by failing to oversee its tax returns for many years. Other significant failures that should give the Local pause to re-think it relationship with CFI are the failed strike in Region 1 during 2007. This strike and CFI leadership’s subsequent rejection of raises offered by the Region not only caused considerable financial losses to members, but also destroyed any political capital interpreters may have had with the courts and significantly damaged interpreter morale. In addition, CFI’s insistence on retaining a lobbyist has produced few, if any, tangible results in 9 years, beyond the successful Trial Court Interpreter Employment and Labor Relations Act of 2005. These are but a few of examples of how the leadership has failed its members and the Local.

Therefore, I would like to present for your consideration a few proposals for rebuilding the Local and the relationship among interpreters, the EC and the other units.


Submitted to the Executive Committee and the Local and for consideration by the unit members of CFI

1) Spin off the Professional Division of CFI

Given that the CFI leadership is stuck in a pre-union mentality, and in view of the issues outlined above, some of which are supported by Paul Klissel’s thoughtful and thorough analysis of the contentious relationship (see his report here), the Local should develop a short-term plan to sever the Professional Division of CFI from the interpreter unit, with financial support from the Local. I believe this can be a very mutually beneficial arrangement for the following reasons:

A) The hotbed of rebellion, i.e., the CFI Joint Governing Board, would cease to have an organic relationship with the Local and would have no authority over the Local’s interpreter unit issues.

B) A new, independent CFI non-profit would be at liberty to fundraise to hire paid staff and/or a lobbyist and participate in Judicial Council or other political committees without oversight or intervention by the Local. Nevertheless, any political or legislative gains by CFI would likely benefit interpreter members as well.

C) Respectable financial support from CWA or the Local for the transition would be an incentive.

D) CFI would cease to drain Local funds in the form of unlimited release time, travel expenses for board members, lobbyist fees, etc.  [Read more…]