Sunday, March 30, 2014


FORMING A GUILD was an idea I brought to the floor when the founding members of the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI) first started talking about  forming the group (which now has chapters in about 60 countries) before it was founded. I mean, I was perfectly aware that "the one percent" had in recent years sought (and has had great success in that task) to propagandize against unions, guilds and co-ops. In fact, US big business has been doing that ever since Ronald Reagan dealt unions a crushing blow during his administration, which is probably why corporate types revere him as a sort of god of conservatism.

But having myself been a card-carrying member of the American Federation of Musicians already when I was  only 15 and coming from the same hometown as screenwriter Dudley Nichols, who became the first person in history to turn down an Oscar, because the American Screen Writers Guild  (of which he served as president) happened to be striking for better conditions when he won it, I was more than a little surprised to find how many fellow freelancers looked at me as if I'd just cast aspersions on their mothers by saying that word: Guild.

I still believe that while, for the past several years now, IAPTI has been doing an excellent job of sparking awareness about how to safeguard translation and interpreting quality and the professional status of the T&I community, there is a major front that remains uncovered and vulnerable to attack by bottom-feeding wholesalers, corporate MT hawkers and many of our own peers who simply give up the fight because they think fighting B2B on an individual basis is hopeless, no matter how bad the quality-level of service wholesalers are offering might be. And I also believe that guilds and co-ops could provide an absolutely viable solution. In fact, call it what you will, any organization that could provide individual freelancers with a rallying point around which to form a proactive business front would do the trick.

 The basic idea would be a "fraternal" professional organization in which competitive consortia could be formed to compete for major jobs that the wholesalers win by raking all of the cream and two-thirds of the milk off the top while paying miserable compensation to desperate and/or inferior T&I workers and charging the same rates as, or higher rates than competent professionals for the inferior products that they deliver. The difference with the services that a guild or coop could offer would be that, by not unfairly profiteering, such an organization could offer the same speed and deadlines as "commodity-translation" wholesalers, but with work carried out by competent, well-paid professionals whose guild or co-op (for a combination of reasonable annual fees and per-job commissions) would organize all team projects and stand behind the quality of all work carried out.
 As a 35-year observer of this activity, I think that this is something to which the up and coming generation of T&I professionals should be giving some very serious consideration.

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