The Minnesota Newspaper and Communications Guild has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Hennepin County Medical Center for the hospital’s refusal to bargain with Interpreters over the effects of the implementation of video remote interpreting (VRI). The Guild is asking a Hennepin County judge to issue a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction to stop the implementation of VRI until HCMC management bargains in good faith with the Union. Under Minnesota’s public employment law, or PELRA, unions are required to file an unfair labor practice complaint in court and seek injunctive relief. In the private sector, unions file unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board.
The leaders of the Interpreters Unit, who have discussed VRI with HCMC management for nearly a year, first requested to bargain over the effects in early 2013. After both sides exchanged proposals, management abruptly changed course on Oct. 11 and refused to bargain to a written agreement. Barring a written agreement, HCMC management reserves the right to implement VRI in any manner it chooses, including the substitution of VRI for in-person interpreting and reductions in hours or possible layoffs. Efforts during the past few weeks to resolve the dispute were unsuccessful. Despite protestations from the Guild, HCMC management implemented the VRI service on Wednesday. A court hearing on the Guild’s request to halt VRI pending bargaining has tentatively been scheduled for Nov. 18.
There is no guarantee the court will side with the Guild, but Interpreters Unit leadership decided to file a legal challenge over HCMC management’s refusal to bargain over working conditions, a fundamental principle between the employer and the Union. The Guild has repeatedly told management the Union is not opposed to VRI, but wants to ensure certain safeguards from the change in working conditions inherent in VRI.
The implementation of VRI without bargaining its effects comes on the eve of negotiations for a new contract. The Interpreters’ contract with HCMC expires Dec. 31. Join your fellow Interpreters in a show of solidarity and wear red on Wednesdays to support in-person interpreting and to support your Union leadership.
Guild Interpreters Unit Chair