January 1st came and went, but interpreters and translators have still not been exempted from CA AB5, the bill that has reclassified all independent contractors in California as employees. Despite months of heavy protesting from the translation and interpretation community, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the sponsor of the bill, seems to be turning a blind eye to everyone’s concerns.
Interpreters Losing Jobs
Many California-based interpreters have been losing business, not only to LSPs (language service providers) in California, but to LSPs across the world, since most – if not all – interpreters are listed with multiple agencies at the same time. On Twitter, interpreters have shared several examples of agencies telling them they can no longer work with them. “Unfortunately, due to Assembly Bill 5, we’re unable to work with freelancers based in California. If you happen to move out of California, please let us know.” Basically, interpreters in California now have three options: close up shop, move to a different state, or engage in a costly restructuring of their business, essentially becoming an LSP themselves. Obviously, none of these options are ideal. AB5 may offer much needed protection in some cases, but for interpreters, it seems like the bill is doing the exact opposite.
LSPs Losing Business
For LSPs, it does not make financial sense to hire full-time interpreters for every language on the market, and because they can no longer work with California-based interpreters either, it means they can’t offer the same range of services they used to, causing them to lose important business. With the rise of remote interpreting, however, LSPs can hire interpreters outside of California to try to fill that gap. Ironically, this would hurt the people AB5 was designed to help: independent contractors in California. Regardless, the technology that supports remote interpreting exists to increase language access, and not as a back-up to correct political mistakes.
Reduced Language Access
Speaking of language access, AB5 going into effect does not bode well for California residents with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). The Trump administration is already planning to dial down language access (Trump vs. Language Access) and AB5 is only making matters worse. Since LSPs can’t offer the same range of services they used to, hospitals, courts and schools can’t offer their services in multiple languages anymore. Note that these government institutions are required by law to do so, so AB5 is only going to put an additional strain on language access in the US.
If you feel passionate about this issue, you can get involved by looking up your state lawmaker and their local district office (you can do that here), tell your story and how your profession serves the community, explain why AB5 threatens your livelihood, and ask your lawmakers what they will do to address this issue. If you need more guidance during this process, you can get in touch with The Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California (CoPTIC) at CoalitionPTIC@gmail.com, or you can donate to their cause.