Courtroom interpreters on verge of walkout in Colorado

In recent years, the state of Colorado has seen an increase in demand for courtroom interpreters. Supply, however, has remained low, with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to a shortage of available interpreters.

The supply of courtroom interpreters in Colorado isn’t the only thing that remains low — wages are too. According to the Denver Post, the state’s courtroom interpreters are “among the lowest-paid in the nation,” earning anywhere between $35 and $55 per hour, depending on the language (in other states, courtroom interpreters may earn as much as $100 on the hour). As a result, several interpreters throughout the state are considering a walk-out in the coming week, to protest their low wages.

Eighty-three interpreters based in the state signed a petition in March requesting a $10 increase in the hourly pay range. They were met with a response that the state would keep their concerns in mind when planning the budget for fiscal year 2024.

If the courtroom interpreters do indeed walk out next week, the Colorado Judicial Department told the Denver Post that the walk-out would significantly impact the court system’s workflow. Court cases that require an interpreter would not be able to move forward.

“We don’t want to gum things up and have people not get their bond advisements, and not have their constitutional rights,” one interpreter told the Denver Post, under the condition of anonymity. “Our goal is to provide language access to non-English speakers… there’s no malice in the interpreter group.”

Courtroom interpreting is a challenging task despite the relatively low pay. Another anonymous courtroom interpreter told the Denver Post that they felt it would be possible to earn more working as an Uber driver than they could working in the Colorado court system.

Fair compensation for courtroom interpreters has been a prominent topic in recent months — in December, MultiLingual reported on a shortage of courtroom interpreters in California, which was largely attributed to low wages for the highly demanding work conditions. And about a month prior, Pennsylvania’s courtroom interpreters won their fight for fair compensation, protesting against a measure that would have cut their pay rates in half.

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Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.

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