Frequently Asked Questions

What is The NewsGuild - Communication Workers of America (TNG-CWA)?

TNG - CWA is a labor union. The NewsGuild represents tens of thousands of workers around the USA, Puerto Rico and Canada, including medical and legal interpreters, ESL teachers, journalists, and more. The CWA, our parent union, represents over 700,000 people around the country. We want TNG-CWA to be the home for interpreters. We know it's not enough to represent interpreters in one place; we need to bring all interpreters together across the country to advance the profession.

What benefits come with having a union?

  • Scheduling stability: we know how many hours we will get to work.
  • No underbidding: we won’t get replaced by someone who can do the work cheaper.
  • Benefits like healthcare, overtime pay and more.
  • Protection from contract violations: the union helps enforce the contract so SOSi can’t change things on a whim or ignore portions of the agreement.
  • Legal support for grievances: if SOSi does violate the contract, the union supports we in filing a grievance to find a solution for the violation.
  • A stop to favoritism: professional interpreters should be valued based on their experience and certifications.  A contract protects interpreters from being replaced by the boss's best friend.
  • A fair disciplinary process: a union contract can require the employer to follow a standard progressive disciplinary process. Instead of an opaque disqualification process, SOSi must provide a transparent process that doesn’t get we fired for the first offense.

How can I maintain my independence while I’m an employee?

No! Many interpreters for immigration court do not want full-time Monday-to-Friday jobs at EOIR. We can negotiate “float” or “casual” positions that guarantee a set number of hours but keep our ability to set a flexible schedule. For example, a float position guarantees we 20 hours of work with EOIR a week at the same rate. The days, hours and location can change each week.

Since we, the EOIR interpreters, work together to negotiate the contract with SOSi, we get to decide what kinds of positions we want to create. Most interpreters are interested in creating a part time position where they have control over what days they work. That’s exactly how other union interpreter contracts work.

Basically, we get the perks of being an employee without the traditional 9am to 5pm enforced schedule.

Can I still work for other agencies if I am a SOSi interpreter?

Yes, a union contract will allow employees of SOSi to work as independent contractors (or employees) with other agencies. Forming a union does not stop we from working for whomever we would like, whenever we would like.

What happens if the DOJ/EOIR contract switches from SOSi to another agency?

Federal contractors are mandated to honor union contracts when taking over for a unionized contractor. In short, the agency that takes over the EOIR contract from SOSi will have to hire all of the unionized interpreters first and honor the contract that they began with SOSi.

How much do the dues cost? When do I have to pay dues?

Dues don’t start until we and our colleagues vote and pass a contract that we like. The rate is approximately 1.34%. That means if we make $1000 gross pay our dues will be $13.40. Forming a union costs zero money until we see what we can do with our union in our contract.

How is the union contract negotiated with SOSi?

In the coming months, we will work to build support for a union, culminating in signing cards to join the union and then having an election about joining the union. Once we and our colleagues have voted to form a union, our union will hold meetings and offer surveys to learn what workplace issues we care the most about. That information will help determine what goes into the contract.

A representative bargaining committee made up of EOIR interpreters (including we, if we step up for this role) will negotiate the contract with SOSi over a few meetings called bargaining sessions. Between bargaining sessions, the bargaining committee will bring updates back to the whole group for input.

When the bargaining committee believes they have reached the best possible contract, it will take it back to everyone to vote on. If a majority votes in favor, the contract will be ratified.

The first contract is the hardest to win all the things we may want, but it is also one of the most fun to create because we are starting from what we have now. The union provides negotiation support, legal advice and examples of other interpreter contracts so that our contract will be the best possible.

What if SOSi says they don’t have enough to keep us on as employees or enough to pay us?

As a union, we can demand that SOSi show us their books if they claim inability to pay we. SOSi may try to threaten us but we know that they need us to survive. 

How does the union help independent contractors in EOIR Court?

Because of the nature of the work, EOIR courts will always need some independent contractors, especially for unexpected high volume of work and for languages that are infrequently represented at EOIR courts. We have seen that the union difference can mean higher pay and better treatment for independent contractors. For example, in California the state interpreters are unionized. The independent contractors who work in state court receive higher pay and better treatment than before the union was present because their union counterparts have fought for contracts with fair pay.

How does a union help languages of lesser diffusion?

Interpreters who speak languages of lesser diffusion and work regularly can get employee status and be full members of the union. Some interpreters who speak languages of lesser diffusion may stay independent contractors.

Can SOSi retaliate against me for forming a union? What rights and protections do I have?

It is our right to support, form and/or advocate for a union at our workplace. Your rights to organize are set forth in Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act: "Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection . . ."

This means that we have the legal right to help organize, to join, and to support a union of our own choosing. You have the right to ask our coworkers to support a union or sign authorization cards on non-work time and in non-work areas. This means that before we begin work, after we finish working, and on our breaks and lunches, we can talk to our coworkers about a union. You can talk to them in the parking lots, cafeteria, lounge, bathrooms, and any other areas where we are not serving as an interpreter. The law protects our right to go to union meetings and to refuse to answer management's questions about the union.

Activities protected during non-work times and in non-work areas include:

  • filling out an authorization card and getting others to fill out authorization cards
  • attending union meetings
  • wearing union buttons and passing out union literature
  • talking about the union to other employees