An ongoing dispute between the Interpreters Unit of the Minnesota Newspaper and Communications Guild and Hennepin County Medical Center was resolved today when the hospital signed an agreement that addresses key issues of video remote interpreting (VRI). The Guild and HCMC agreed to terms Thursday on the eve of today’s first bargaining session in negotiations for a new contract for the Collective Bargaining Agreement that expires Dec. 31.

Interpreters were incensed last month when HCMC management abruptly informed the Union it was refusing to bargain to a written agreement over the effects of the implementation of VRI. The management decision led to a mass mobilization effort by Interpreters, who pinned on unique red buttons with a QR code that linked to the Interpreters page on the Guild website. Interpreters also continued to wear red on Wednesdays in support of in-person interpreting and rallied twice outside the hospital to call attention to management’s refusal to bargain. The Union stepped up the pressure last week when it asked a Hennepin County judge for an emergency order to stop the implementation of VRI and to require HCMC to bargain over the issue. As part of the agreement, the Union will dismiss the unfair labor practice court complaint. A hearing in the case was scheduled for Monday morning.

The VRI Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) extends until June 1 and can only be terminated after that upon 30 days written notice from either party. As such, the agreement will provide a bridge on VRI issues through negotiations for a new contract.

The MOU provides for:

• 4-hour shifts for Interpreters assigned to VRI; individual Interpreters can work longer shifts if they desire.

• VRI assignments will first be obtained through volunteers; otherwise, seniority will be the primary consideration for VRI assignments.

• Interpreters assigned to VRI will have a target of 75 percent of their shifts to be engaged in active interpreting; breaks will generally comprise the remaining 25 percent of the shifts.

Let’s continue to wear red on Wednesdays and keep the red QR code buttons pinned on to show support for in-person interpreting and for your bargaining team.

In solidarity,

Santiago Morgan
Guild Interpreters Unit Chair

HCMC relents, agrees to written terms on VRI