You've come to an old part of SW Online. We're still moving this and other older stories into our new format. In the meanwhile, click here to go to the current home page.
On the picket line

October 12, 2007 | Page 15

ICE harasses striking S.F. janitors
Southern California court interpreters

ICE harasses striking S.F. janitors
By Brian Cruz

SAN FRANCISCO--Immigration agents were sent twice last week to harass a mostly immigrant picket line of janitors who were fired from their jobs.

The week before, on Friday, September 28, members of SEIU Local 87 found out that a new janitorial contractor, Exemplar, had won the bid for the new San Francisco Federal Building--and that on the following Monday, they wouldn't be returning to work.

The angry janitors began picketing the building that day, with 20 people on the line. The next day, the numbers grew to 70. Then, four Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents showed up, and later, two ICE helicopters. Thankfully, no one was detained.

On October 5, the picket was even larger, with more than 100 people on the line. ICE agents once again showed up with eight patrol cars and trucks. The vehicles were parked on one side of the picketers, and the agents stood on the other.

In the face of this intimidation, the picketers chanted loudly, "Aquí estamos y no nos vamos!" (We're here and we're not leaving!) Speaking over a megaphone, Olga Miranda, the president of Local 87, echoed the sentiment of the crowd: "We will not be intimidated!"

The role of immigration law enforcement in attacking workers and their rights could not be more blatant.

Exemplar offered the workers their jobs back without a union. They refused, continuing to picket. Many wondered why ICE was present, given that San Francisco's official city policy is to provide sanctuary for immigrants.

But the workers didn't let ICE intimidate them. Instead, the picketers came out in even larger numbers. The importance of this fight is magnified by ICE's attempt to intervene in a labor disputes concerning an immigrant workforce. The workers need our support.

Contact Exemplar at 415-722-3365 and tell them to rehire the janitors, with a union. See the ICE agents try to intimidate the picketers at YouTube.

Back to the top

Southern California court interpreters
By Todd Chretien

A MONTH after 400 court interpreters in Southern California went on strike, 90 percent are still on the picket line in a fight for parity with other Superior Court employees.

"We went on strike to achieve equal treatment for court interpreters," said Dennis McKenna, author of the bilingual Criminal Court Dictionary and a member of the California Federation of Interpreters (CFI). "Even though all other Superior Court employees have salary steps, interpreters who started work today will earn exactly the same as those who have five, 10 or 15 years of experience. In other words, there is no advancement."

The strike began September 5 when court interpreters in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Luis Obispo walked out after management refused to negotiate in good faith, McKenna said.

"We are a group of largely women and minorities, many of whom were not born in this country," he said. "Is this the reason the courts have not been willing to negotiate with us in good faith?

"Most judges and administrators still don't get it. It requires years of study to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to pass our certification exam, which has a considerably lower pass rate than the state bar exam. And yet they still don't seem to recognize us for being professionals on an equal footing with other court personnel."

By refusing to treat the interpreters fairly, the courts are putting non-English speakers at risk as they face criminal proceedings. "It's a question of equal access to justice," McKenna said. "During our strike, the LA Superior Court has acted in a fashion that completely disregards the law, authorizing non-certified individuals to work interpreting complex proceedings. They often go for minutes on end without even opening their mouths" to interpret for defendants.

The interpreters are digging in for a long fight and are seeking support.

Solidarity donations can be sent to the Northern California Media Workers Union, Local 39521 (CFI Strike Relief Fund), NCMWU, 433 Natoma St. 3rd floor, San Francisco, CA 94103. Also, contact LA County Superior Court Presiding Judge Stephen Czuleger to tell him to negotiate with the CFI. He can be reached at 213-974 5600, via fax at 213-621-7952, or 111 North Hill St., Room 204, Los Angeles, CA 90012. For information, visit the union's Web site.

Home page | Back to the top