Continuous Change for Improvement
Kaizen is a very new business idea dating from 1986. It is a system that involves every employee, from upper management to the lowest ranking employee. Everyone is encouraged to come up with small improvements or suggestions on a regular basis, continuously. In Japanese companies, such as Toyota and Canon, a total of 60 to 70 suggestions per employee per year are written down, shared and implemented.
Language interpretation belongs to the tertiary sector of the economy, the Service Industry. As such, any interpreting services program that spends more than 15% of its overall budget in administrative tasks is by definition wasteful and inefficient.
You can't manage what you don't measure.
Interpreters United embraces lean management principles. Our union helped introduce a proviso in the 2011 WA State Budget (2ESHB 1087) that mandated two executive branch agencies, the Health Cate Authority (HCA) and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), to issue a Request For Proposal (RFP) to consolidate and streamline the procurement and delivery of interpreting services.
Previously, the state (DSHS) had devised an ill-advised brokerage system with two layers of intermediaries and more than 40% in administrative costs. Under the brokers, language companies constantly lowered interpreters’ hourly rates in an internecine fight to win contracts by undercutting their competitors with cheaper bids while preserving, and in some cases increasing, their profit margins. Interpreters responded to this scheme by leaving the profession in droves. Those who remained in the profession moved to other more profitable venues such as courts. Faced with a shrinking pool of qualified interpreters, DSHS created a provisional certification which “certified” interpreters who had failed the oral exam. With no monetary incentives, no mandatory training and no continued education requirements to maintain the credential, the quality of the DSHS spoken language interpreters continued to plummet fostering outrageous abuses including criminal activity. End users of interpreting services suffered the consequences.
Interpreters United, with the support of AFCSME Council 28 (WFSE), was able to impose its vision of a statewide and consolidated coordinating entity that would provide web based electronic scheduling, invoicing, and payment for less than 15% of the overall budget. Through the RFP, a transparent and public process, the contract was awarded to a WA based language agency, CTS Language Link, to coordinate interpreting services under a Software as a Service (SaaS) business model. In exchange, interpreters’ wages and working conditions were collectively bargained separately putting an end to the race to the bottom. This new paradigm for the procurement of interpreter services has three main stakeholders (the government, the language company and the union) who need each other but frequently have competing interests. This three-legged stool only stands straight when win-win solutions for all three stakeholders are implemented. All three have now become partners in the quest to provide meaningful language access to WA’s Limited English Proficient (LEP) population. Pursuant to Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Language Access is a Civil Right and Interpreters United is committed to defend it.
The new system went live on September 24, 2012 and the rest is history...
By working together, we can improve the interpreting profession - for ourselves, providers, and the people we serve! Join us to restore professional pay, benefits and respect to interpreters.
Learn more about Interpreters United by reading our news and checking out campaigns under the "take action" section of this website. You can also join the conversation at www.facebook.com/InterpretersUnited. Contact us at local1671 [at] gmail.com.