In the midst of the all-consuming issues we face from the pandemic and diverse protests nationwide for racial justice, the sausage-making process that all new legislation goes through nonetheless grinds on in the California legislature, where efforts to mitigate the harmed caused by AB 5 continue. As is often said, "As California goes, so goes the nation." This issue is of critical importance for professional interpreters and translators everywhere.
June, including this first week, is yet another pivotal moment for those advocating for a clear pathway for independent contractor interpreters and translators to be able to continue in their profession with autonomy in California.
In April, our efforts focused on proposed language in SB 900, a bill which was withdrawn on May 14 before it ever made it to the floor of that 40-person chamber.
Now, the California Assembly's powerful Appropriations Committee is setting the stage for consideration by all 80 Members of that body of AB 1850. This proposed bill currently has language classifying translators under "professional services," effectively providing them exemption from AB 5's sweeping employee classification that made being an employee the only clear option for working as a professional interpreter or translator in California.
The problem? This language completely excludes interpreters (including for signed language) and all non-certified translators, which make up the great majority of practicing professionals.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The "fix" we are asking legislators for now is very simple: amend the current language that says "certified translators" to say "professional translators and interpreters."
If you are based in California, it's not too late to write the 17 members of the Appropriations Committee [firstname.lastname@example.org] AND the local Assembly member who works for you in support of this simple change. It’s very important that each Assembly member gets educated by a constituent—their boss—about the fact that professional linguists save lives and that the term “certified translators” does not protect the majority of hard-won livelihoods by professional linguists. Legislators can fix this, and they must, especially amidst the increased struggle everyone is experiencing during this pandemic.
The more specific and personal information you can share about how AB 5 has interfered in your work as an independent contractor, the better. That is what it will take to get AB 1850 amended to protect language professionals.
To help you with information for your own letter to the Appropriations Committee and your Assembly Member, you can view these two excellent position papers just published by Bill Rivers and the American Translators Association that beautifully lay out how our profession is structured and how our competence is measured.
Tomorrow’s hearing is likely to be a to be long, dealing with dozens of bills. But you can tune in to proceedings and call in to ask for the specific language amendment we are proposing—if you are so moved.
The work of thousands of professional interpreters and translators in support CoPTIC, the Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California, is bearing fruit. The process to make legislation is long and the road is never straight, but together we can help our colleagues preserve their right to their livelihoods.
Thank you for your continued support and interest in this issue, especially during these truly unprecedented times.