Why May Day Matters for Interpreters


May Day is a unique international celebration of labor rights movements. On recent discussion boards, interpreters have been discussing the detrimental impact that comprehensive interpreting agencies have been having on sign language interpreting services. However, much of the discussion continues to view this problem within the potentially limited framework of what is best for the Deaf consumer or best for the interpreting field. On May Day, I think it’s important to remember that worker rights – including the right of interpreters to provide quality services – is an international struggle within the economic system known as capitalism. To understand what’s happening in the interpreting field, we have to understand labor and capital more broadly and recognize that no efforts to improve the quality of interpreting services will be possible without organizing across professions. Unfortunately, a countervailing trend in the interpreting profession is to view interpreting as a unique and often solitary profession. I hope that we can reflect on these problems on May Day.



2 thoughts on “Why May Day Matters for Interpreters”

  1. I agree that interpreters in our field (American Sign Language English interpretation) tend to view our profession as unique, not seeing similarities to other interpreters, much less other professions. I would like to think there is a trend in our profession toward relating to others outside of it, but I wonder whether this is actually happening to our profession as a whole, or just to some practitioners of it.

    1. @Dan – Always good to hear from you. Yes, there are some interpreters who are trying to see interpreters within a broader professional, economic framework. But I would say that this is (a) a minority position within the profession, and (b) an underdeveloped position, which means it still needs more work to understand what it really means for us. I’d love to have more conversations to move this forward!

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