Salary revision shelved after interpreters ask for reconsideration

The Board of Trustees removed an agenda item after public comments


Screengrab via Board of Trustees/YouTube

An agenda item on the Sept. 14 Board of Trustees meeting consent calendar was removed for further consideration after several faculty members spoke against it during public comments. The item, a revision to salary schedules, unequally amended interpreter salaries.

The proposed revisions sought to bring a higher increase to the wages of the lower level interpreters, level I to III, than those of level IV and V. According to the salary schedule’s hiring guidelines, “Hourly pay level is based on the education, training, certifications and years of experience of the incumbent.”

Proposed salary schedule. Photo courtesy of the Board of Trustees/BoardDocs

The level I interpreters would have received a $9 increase to their hourly wage while level V interpreters would have received a $5 bump.

Several faculty members made public comments to protest the changes.

“The higher level interpreters take on the more challenging, demanding classes and hold more qualifications. These numbers feel invalidating of the hard work and contribution that we continued and continued to give to students,” Interpreter Meghan Sotomayor said.

She went on to address the board directly: “You seemingly don’t see the value in our work. I, for one, am tired of having to constantly fight to feel validated on this campus. … when administration continuously overlooks our hard work, there’s only so much people can take.”

Sign Language/Interpreting Department Chair Ann Walker spoke about the difficulty the department is having in hiring new interpreters due to Mt. SAC’s wages.

“We have a conference coming up next month, for example, and we’ve already tried to hire quite a few people and when we tell them our top offering they say ‘Y’know, I don’t even know if that’ll be worth my gas, I’m sorry,’” Walker said. She ended her statement by reminding the board of inflation and requesting that they reevaluate the changes.

Interpreter Chase Rebensdorf iterated the hazards involved in providing inadequate wages, “I think the biggest thing to impress is the financial risk to the college … stepping over dollars to pick up dimes here, saving a little bit on these higher level rates, but eventually, it’s going to end up coming back to bite us in the long run.”

In his statement, Rebensdorf pointed out a real time example of this: two interpreters who were supposed to be at the meeting backed out due to feeling intimidated. The interpreter who ended up supplying their service was not present to work, but did so voluntarily.

The agenda report acknowledges concerns, reading “It has been increasingly challenging to recruit and retain these professional experts.”

Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Counselor Julie Bradley reinforced the hiring scarcity, saying “In 2017, we had 56 interpreters. This year, we have 33. We have more students and fewer staff to get the job done.”

She went on the stress that the revisions would not adequately satisfy the school’s future needs.

“I am being offered 10, 15 dollars more than what I am being offered at Mt. SAC right now,” Interpreter Vanessa Ordaz said. “It would be easy for me to say ‘I’m not going to work for Mt. SAC, I’m going to go through this agency and make more money’ but I’m loyal to Mt. SAC and I want to continue to work for the DHH center to provide consistency of service for our students.”

Overall, eight faculty members made public comments in support of higher wages for the higher level interpreters. Once the board reached the meeting’s consent calendar, the item was pulled for future consideration.

The board will meet again on Oct. 12, where the salaries will be further discussed and possibly amended.