Forget asking the membership what they want, the bosses have decided

Claiming that the majority of interpreters want to leave the PMWG, Carl Hall and Bernie Lunzer have decided to ask the CWA remove the CFI, the interpreter bargaining unit, from Local 39521.

A Statement to Local 39521 Members: Time for CFI to Depart

A majority of our brothers and sisters in the California Federation of Interpreters want to leave our Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521, and start a new local of their own.
I want to help them achieve this goal.

CFI leaders have made it clear that no other option will work. In fact, they claim they have a right to leave anytime they choose, citing a provision in their affiliation agreement with us. I believe this right lapsed years ago, but see no point arguing it any more. It’s time for swift and decisive action.

Last week, I proposed a referendum inviting CFI members to vote whether to stay or go. I still favor the principle that members should decide such fundamental questions. But I have seen enough petitions and statements and mass emails to convince me that the members already have decided.

It’s time for CFI to exit Local 39521.

The Executive Committee of Local 39521 will meet at 10 am Saturday, March 29. I have placed on the agenda a proposal asking our parent union, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), to remove the CFI jurisdiction from our Charter. If the proposal is approved, we will invite CWA to take CFI out of Local 39521. It would take a three-fourths majority vote of the CWA executive board to do this.

CFI and our national union leadership then can move forward to create what I hope becomes a great new local in the TNG-CWA family.

In Unity,

Carl Hall
Executive Officer
TNG-CWA Local 39521


A Statement to Local 39521 Members from TNG Leadership:

The executive committee of Local 39521 is expected to take steps this week to sever its affiliation with the California Federation of Interpreters.

A board vote asking CWA to step in and take responsibility for the unit will be scheduled soon. The CWA Executive Board has the power to reassign jurisdiction or impose trusteeship.

As leaders of The Newspaper Guild-CWA, we are supportive of this swift resolution to a situation that has become untenable.

Alongside local leaders, we had worked diligently over the past weeks to find options that would have allowed all current members to remain within this local, which for 20 years has fought for the needs of interpreters in California and beyond. Barring that, we had hoped for a referendum letting CFI members choose to stay or separate. However, there is no longer a viable path toward either outcome, and the current crisis must not be allowed to continue.

We had attempted to mediate a solution to this dispute, as a neutral. But we have always been on the side of our members, and all workers who need a union to improve their lives.

Bernie Lunzer
Sara Steffens
The News Guild-CWA

Hall to hold referendum on future of interpreter unit

Executive Officer Carl Hall has ended negotiations over money for CFI activities and the hiring of reps and has said he will hold a referendum on whether the unit splits from the local, according to Ariel Torrone.

Union trip paid for out of Professional Division funds

CFI Treasurer Lupe Astamendi refuses to respond to inquiries

After much prodding, and facing charges of misappropriation of funds, CFI President Ariel Torrone has acknowledged, in a roundabout way, that the money for his and Mike Ferreira’s secret trip to Washington came out of the CFI Professional Division.

Torrone suggested in an email that the decision to use Professional Division funds was his alone, and not voted on by the board. What he actually said was,

Since becoming CFI President I’ve had to make a lot of decisions regarding our unit. Those decisions, many of them related to finances, are made after consulting with both the CFI Board and Unit Council.

After being asked yet again, he reportedly said that the money he spent on the trip came from continuing education classes put on by the Professional Division, not from dues money (or agency fees–let’s not forget that nonmembers pay too). Dues money and agency fees are controlled by the local.

Whether this use of Professional Division funds for a meeting to talk about union business was in compliance with the CFI bylaws has yet to be determined. So has the amount spent and the manner in which the expenditure was approved, since the CFI leadership has no regard for transparency, democracy or complying with its own or the local’s bylaws.

The independent, autonomous interpreter local

Because in a business union, it’s all about the money

Annual receipts:

Union members 750 x $12,000 = $900,000
Agency fee payers 250 x $12,000 = $300,000

Annual salary expenses: (not a complete list; based on current and past salary rates)

Executive officer: Ferreira (?) Torrone (?) Abella (?) Barden (?) $97,000 per year (salary and expenses)
Union representative: Silvia Barden $87,000 per year (salary and expenses)
Union representative: Marylou Aranguren $85,000 per year (salary and expenses)
Union representative: Daniel Navarro (?) $83,000 per year plus expenses
Union representative: ?? $83,000 per year plus expenses
Field representative: ?? $57,000 (salary and expenses)

Who decides whom gets hired and their salary rate? YOU do.*

*Actually, you don’t—they do. The CFI is a representative democracy, not a worker-run union.

Comment submitted to new “Interpreter Union” blog

The CFI leadership has just created its own site, called Interpreter Union, from which they can more appropriately wage their struggle against the local’s executive officer and try to build support among the membership for creating their own local. Another positive feature is that, unlike the CFI Web site, this one allows comments.

The following comment was submitted to the site administrators. It does not contain ad-hominem attacks or misstate facts, but only addresses the issues. But just in case the CFI decides not to publish it, it has been reproduced below:

The idea of having an interpreter local is not bad, but the unelected CFI leadership have no mandate to do this and have not earned the confidence of the membership in their fitness to set one up. They conduct their business in secret and don’t even comply with the minimal requirements of their own flawed bylaws, let alone the bylaws of the local.

They do not run meetings democratically according to Robert’s Rules of Order. They did not mail out the call for nominations during the last election, depriving those who might have been interested in running of the opportunity to make nominations. They have not revealed who paid for their secret trip to Washington, a trip that was not authorized by the membership. They hold closed board meetings, in violation of the local’s bylaws. They have repeatedly pressured the local to either deny people membership or illegally strip an individual of her membership without notifying her.

Finally, they tricked members into signing an agency shop agreement by not allowing members to read their contracts before voting on them. This trickery guaranteed that the local could collect dues money from every person covered by the union’s contracts whether people were members or not. The CFI officers should know that if they launch their own local, interpreters are not going to be tricked into accepting an agency shop, so they should not count on the dues money of people that they ignore or treat with disrespect.