What is Interpreters United?
Updated On: Oct 12, 2023

What is Interpreters United?

We are the labor union for freelance spoken language interpreters.

Interpreters United / AFSCME 28 is the sole legal representative of spoken language interpreters who render services for HCA-Medicaid enrollees, DSHS and DCYF clients and since 2023 L&I (see RCW 41.56.030(10)).

  • Services rendered to HCA-Medicaid enrollees covered by our union contract are currently coordinated by the state's vendor Universal Language Services. 
  • Services rendered to DSHS and DCYF clients covered by our union contract are currently coordinated by two state vendors: Universal Language Services and FourCorners
  • Services rendered for L&I claims and soon to be covered by our union contract are currently coordinated by two state vendors: InterpretingWorks (onsite interpreting) and CTS Language Link (remote interpreting).

We promote lean government principles by supporting an ONLINE SCHEDULING ONE-STOP SHOPPING SOLUTION for on-site and remote interpreting services.

Our members are a group of dedicated interpreters who work for the greater good. Every odd year, our membership elects its interpreter leaders who, for a 2-year term, volunteer their time and share their knowledge freely with their colleagues.

Local 1671 belongs to the Washington Federation of State Employees (AFSCME Council 28). The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) represents more than 1 million public service workers and is affiliated to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

What were conditions like for most interpreters in 2009?  

  • Interpreters paid only $21/hr. - or less!
  • Intermediaries (Language Companies & Brokers) kept an average of 38% of interpreters' pay!
  • Required 15 minute back up logs if you went over the scheduled time
  • No pay for late cancellations and no shows
  • No pay for parking, ferries or tolls
  • Some interpreters did get full mileage reimbursement, but it depended on the language company

How did freelance interpreters get a union?

  • In winter of 2010, AFSCME Council 28 took us under their wing and helped us pass a historic bill ESSB 6726 granting union rights to independent contractor interpreters for the first time in our nation.
  • During the summer, interpreters held a forum with state officials from DSHS and the Governor's Office of Financial Management (OFM) where over 200 interpreters from around the state gave testimony about the current problems and offered solutions for future improvements to the language access program.
  • In the fall, interpreters held an election voting 95% UNION YES!

Watch this powerful video about why interpreters organized!


By working together, we improve the interpreting profession - for ourselves, providers, and the people we serve! 

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