|Cartoon courtesy of Alejandro Moreno-Ramos.|
On the other side of the Atlantic, many thousands of miles away, something similar is happening (minus the interpreter unity and the media attention). Here in Nevada (Clark County), the effects of the global economic crisis are hard to miss. Nevada leads the nation in many things, including unemployment rates and foreclosures. It's a sad thing to witness, and as is to be expected, the local and state governments are trying to make ends meet with decreasing tax revenue from gaming operations and tourism dollars (hotels are still full, but they are much cheaper). Furloughs have been introduced for many state workers, and universities are closing entire programs and departments.
The latest victims of the downturn are...you guessed it: court interpreters. Effective February 15, 2012, Clark County gave a new contract to all certified contract court interpreters, reducing their rate by an astonishing 30%. Unfortunately, many fellow court interpreters have come to rely on the court system to feed them work so much that they've had no choice but to accept the new conditions. Judy, however, has chosen to send a message and has not signed the new contract, thus ending her working relationships with the courts. She still interprets in court, but for private parties (law firms, etc.). Ironically, the rate has only been decreased for certified Spanish interpreters. All other languages are still paid at the old rate.
What do you think, fellow interpreters? We understand that governments need to save funds, but reducing the rates of contractors who are such an important part of the legal puzzle is concerning. Court interpreters receive no benefits, insurance, vacation time or even mileage and travel time, and a 30% decrease in rate means that more and more top-notch interpreters will look for work elsewhere. The people who suffer are invariably those who need it most: defendants in criminal cases. We don't know what the answer is, but for now, Judy is not willing to work for 30% less. Court interpreters go through a very challenging and long certification process in Nevada (with a 3% pass rate on the first try), and the pay rate doesn't do all that work and expertise that one needs to become a court interpreter any justice.
We'd love to hear your thoughts.