As the Demand for Court Interpreters Climbs, State Budget Conflicts Grow as Well

SFLC Resolution to Reinstate the “Morning Mix” Drive-Time Radio Show & Say No to Cuts in Labor/Community Programming on KPFA Radio

SFLC Resolution to Reinstate the “Morning Mix” Drive-Time Radio Show & Say No to Cuts in Labor/Community Programming on KPFA Radio

Whereas, KPFA Radio 94.1 FM, with a powerful radio transmitter, has been a megaphone for community free speech radio throughout northern California for over 65 years, and is the flagship station of the Pacifica Radio Network; and

Whereas, for the last 3 and a half years KPFA has aired a ground-breaking labor and community program called the Morning Mix – broadcasting at a time when more working people could hear it, during “drive time” from 8 to 9 AM, Monday to Friday; and

Whereas, the rotating hosts of the Morning Mix radio shows on KPFA have featured the voices of Bay Area working people and their issues, to a degree not found on any other Northern California station with the reach and power of KPFA. This included regular reporting on labor and community struggles – about the postal workers’ fight against privatization; the concerns of teachers, dockworkers, transit and healthcare workers, and immigrant workers; as well as the community fight in the city of Richmond against toxic pollution by Chevron Corporation; and

Whereas, the Morning Mix provided regular announcements of Bay Area labor and community events, so working people could be aware of these activities and participate; and

Whereas, late in the evening on May 21, KPFA and Pacifica management abruptly, and without proper consultations, cancelled the Morning Mix and replaced it with a syndicated program “Uprising” produced in Los Angeles that doe over Bay Area issues and events; and;

Whereas, we need more local labor and community programming on KFPA radio, not less – especially since working peoples’ stories are almost completely ignored by the mainstream media. This program change is a tremendous loss for the radio listeners in the Bay Area.

Therefore be it Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council calls on KPFA/Pacifica management to reinstate the Morning Mix drive-time radio show. We need more labor and community programs on the radio—not less!; and

Be it Finally Resolved, that this resolution be submitted to Bay Area labor Councils and the California Labor Federation for concurrence and action.

Submitted by NALC 214 and adopted by the San Francisco Labor Council on June 9, 2014. Respectfully,

Tim Paulson Executive Director

KBS President has harsh words for labor unions
Posted on : May.22,2014 16:03 KST
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Members of the KBS Reporters Association shout slogans during a protest calling for President Gil Hwan-young to resign, in a stairwell at KBS headquarters in Seoul’s Yeouido neighborhood, May 21. The signs read “We will reflect” and “We will make things right at KBS”. (by Shin So-young, staff photographer)
Gil Hwan-young accuses unions of “politically motivated demagoguery” as production boycott continues
By Lee Jung-gook and Kim Hyo-sil, staff reporters
On May 21, KBS President Gil Hwan-young made clear that he plans to hold the labor union accountable for its illegal instigation, saying that he will fight calls for him to step down. In response, the KBS Reporters Association, which is refusing to produce new programs, decided to use its fact-finding team to investigate the Blue House putting pressure on KBS and controlling reporting.
“I have never given specific directions about 9 O’clock News. I have also never received a phone call from the Blue House about reporting,” Gil said in a special statement broadcast over the public address system at KBS headquarters. In the statement, he repeatedly denied allegations that the Blue House had been controlling KBS reports.
On May 19 – ten days after former newsroom chief Kim Si-gon began making bombshell revelations on May 9 – Gil Hwan-young held a press conference rejecting Kim’s claims.
Gil dismissed calls for his resignation as “politically motivated demagoguery.” Referring to the strike that the labor union is considering as “illegal,” he said that he would “never step down because of politically-motivated instigation and violence.”
“I want to send a stern warning to the “New Union” and KBS 1 union. I will punish demagoguery and other illegal behavior more strictly than any other company president,” Gil said. At the same time, he suggested that the labor union hold a meeting of the Fair Broadcasting Committee, which he would preside over.
After Gil released the statement, the KBS chapter of the National Union of Media Workers (New Union) issued a statement in rebuttal. “Gil Hwan-young is accusing the two labor unions that are calling for his resignation of ‘political instigation,’” the statement said, referring to Gil’s objections to the unions’ plans to hold a vote on the strike. “In fact, the most political person at KBS is Gil. If Gil steps down, we will call off the vote on the strike at once.” The “New Union” and KBS 1 union started the vote about a total strike on May 21.
On the afternoon of May 21, the KBS Reporters Association held an emergency general meeting to discuss what actions they should take in the future. Currently, more than 90% of the association’s total 500 members are united in refusing to produce new programs. The association announced that it would use the fact-finding team that it had formed on May 19 to investigate the claims made by Kim Si-gon about interference in KBS reports. It also voiced suspicions that as well as from Kim, Gil had received news cue sheets beforehand from another secret channel.
On the night of May 21, the KBS Board of Directors held a meeting where they debated the issue of Gil Hwan-young’s possible dismissal. They agreed to hold an official discussion on the topic on May 26, and that Gil will have a chance to explain himself.
“Lee Jeong-hyun, public relations secretary for the Blue House, and KBS President Gil Young-hwan violated the Broadcasting Act and committed crimes including overstepping their authority and preventing people from exercising their rights,” the Center for Media Responsibility and Human Rights said in a request for investigation that it filed with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office on May 21.

Purple Interpreters on the picket line in San Diego

Purple Interpreters on the picket line in San Diego

CWA Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 Purple Interpreters on the picket line in San Diego
Purple Communications strikers on the picket line
Alex Kueny reports from San Diego on a 12-hour strike by sign language interpreters.

May 14, 2014

Purple Communications strikers on the picket line (Alex Kueny | SW)

“CUTTING OUR health care is a sick idea!” read the signs carried by strikers on a picket line outside Purple Communications in San Diego, where American Sign Language (ASL) video relay service (VRS) interpreters staged a one-day Unfair Labor Practice work stoppage on May 5.

Workers say they walked out to pressure management to address their demand for a contract, and to register their anger at proposed health care cuts and continued workload increases.

The determination of the strikers, who are members of Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521, was on display for an inspiring 12 hours, as they were joined by local activists and community supporters from the start of Purple’s workday at 6 a.m. until its close at 6 p.m.

Throughout the day, passing drivers honked their horns in support of the action–most notably San Diego Unified School District and the Metropolitan Transit System bus drivers, who may be pushed to stage a strike of their own later this year.

The San Diego strikers were joined by their fellow interpreters on picket lines at Purple locations in Oakland, Phoenix and Denver. Purple Communications provides video interpretation services in phone calls between ASL users on one side and English or Spanish speakers on the other.

The strike represents the latest step in a process that began with a unionization drive in November 2012, although the four worksites that participated in the work stoppage remain Purple’s only unionized worksites.

The effort to unionize was ultimately driven by management’s desire to increase the pace of work while simultaneously decreasing interpreters’ break time. This has led to higher rates of workplace repetitive motion injuries (RMI) as the interpreters’ arms, wrists and fingers suffer from the increased signing workloads.

This makes management’s intention to cut health care benefits all the more egregious. A former video interpreter said:

Interpreters (much more patient than I) are fighting and don’t want to give up on VRS because it’s so necessary for deaf people. I was working far into burnout mode–way too much work for way too little pay, and no one gave a crap about the quality of my interpreting. [We] would be led on about bonus incentives that would quietly just get swept under the rug. Now they’re threatening health care. All of the work that has been put into determining healthy work conditions for interpreters in the community doesn’t seem to stand in VRS from my experience.

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IN ADDITION to addressing these issues, the strikers are hoping that the work stoppage will compel management to grant them a contract–something no VRS interpreters from any VRS company have had before.

The tactical goal of the one-day strike was to threaten the subsidy Purple Communications receives from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in exchange for providing interpreting services free-of-charge for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (DHH) and hearing callers who require it. The company only receives its FCC subsidy if 80 percent of the incoming calls’ average wait time to connect to an interpreter is one minute or less.

By stopping work for 12 hours at four different worksites, the overall wait-time of callers was increased, thus putting the subsidy in jeopardy. In this way, the interpreters were able to seriously threaten one of the company’s main revenue sources while limiting the length of the stoppage (and thus the amount of lost wages workers have to endure) to a single workday.

The interpreters say they are hopeful that the threat to Purple’s bottom line will be enough to convince management to decrease workloads, to shy away from the proposed health benefit cuts and‹significantly‹to award 144 video interpreters their first contract.

At stake is not only the quality of their livelihoods, but the quality of the interpretation services which both hearing and deaf consumers are dependent on to communicate with friends and family.

Because of the FCC subsidies received by Purple, these services are ultimately paid for by American taxpayers. The uniquely capitalist absurdity of this situation is that the very workers who actually provide VRS have been forced to sacrifice a day’s worth of pay in order to make sure that taxpayer (read: working class) money from the FCC which is intended for that service actually goes to it.

Meanwhile, the managers who exercise control over that money and the interpreters’ livelihoods are perfectly content to divert those funds away from a necessary and valuable social service and the people who provide it, and into the company’s own private coffers instead.

Unfortunately, this situation is far from unique. But fortunately, neither is the courage of the Purple interpreters.

Norma Villegas contributed to this article.

Announcing “Democratic Interpreter Union”

A new blog for the rank-and-file interpreters who pay the union’s bills

Because of the separation of the interpreter bargaining unit from the PMWG and the formation of Local 39000, I have set up a new blog to carry on the struggle for a democratic, worker-controlled union. It is called Democratic Interpreter Union. You are invited to visit the site, follow it, and more importantly, to weigh in on the crucial issues facing interpreters at this important juncture.

In solidarity,

Diana Barahona