TAALS Position Statement on AB 5

The American Association of Language Specialists issued the following position statement on AB 5 supporting an exemption from application of the new law.


Position Statement of TAALS – The American Association of Language Specialists – on California Assembly Bill 5

The Honorable Assembly Woman Lorena Gonzalez
The Honorable Anthony J. Portantino, Chair of Appropriations Committee
The Honorable Patricia Bates, Vice-President of the Appropriations Committee
The Honorable Senator Jerry Hill, Chair of Senate Committee AB5
The Honorable Senator Mike Morrell, Vice-Chair Senate Committee AB5
The Honorable Senator Hannah Beth Jackson
The Honorable Senator Holly J. Mitchell, 19th District
The Honorable Senator Richard Pan, 6th District
Ms. Caitlin Vega, Legislative Director, California Labor Federation
Mr. Michael Young, Legislative Advocate, California Labor Federation

August 25, 2019

The American Association of Language Specialists – TAALS – is a professional association based in the Americas that represents language specialists (conference interpreters and translators) working at the highest international level, either at conferences or in permanent organizations, and determines their qualifications and standards. Founded in Washington, DC, in 1957, the Association today has members based throughout the United States as well as in over twenty-one countries of the Western Hemisphere, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Australia. While some are permanently employed by international organizations and government agencies such as the International Monetary Fund, the Organization of American States, the United States Department of State, the World Bank, to name a few, the overwhelming majority of our members work on a freelance basis. Membership in TAALS indicates a high standard of performance.

TAALS fully endorses the Position Statement of the United States Chapter of AIIC – the International Association of Conference Interpreters dated August 12, 2019, and which is quoted in this letter.

Conference interpreters and translators provide essential linguistic support to meetings that vary in their duration, location and country, and importantly from client to client.

TAALS members are sophisticated and highly educated entrepreneurs. We generally hold master’s degrees or higher and undergo continuous training. Many of us speak multiple languages.

Assignments we are offered send us to work at the highest diplomatic level by the US Department of State Office of Language Services for all branches of the federal government, such as the White House, the US Senate and the US House of Representatives, as well as the Departments of Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Interior and Labor, the Federal Reserve and the US Trade Representative for the negotiations of crucial international instruments such as treaties; we facilitate exchanges at the highest political and financial level, at United Nations, the InterAmerican Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Panamerican Health Organization, the Organization of American States, the World Bank and the World Health Organization, to mention but a few.

Most of our members have chosen to be independent contractors to meet the requirements of the market. The short duration of projects, their geographic variability and different language combinations require us to choose our dates, clients and projects wisely and strategically. Our ability to do so and thus our livelihoods would be severely undermined by employee status as considered under California Assembly Bill5.

We manage our businesses in every aspect. Each interpreter or translator invests thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours a year in their business. Each is responsible for setting their own rates, doing their own professional development, accounting, marketing, project preparation, quality control, invoicing, and taxes. We receive requests for services from dozens of clients every year and freely accept or reject them according to an assessment that only we are able to make. We weigh the subject matter, language fit, quality of the sound (for interpreters) and other technical conditions, and of course our scheduled commitments to other clients.

As such, professional free-lance conference interpreters and translators are true independent contractors, with their own, independent businesses and power to negotiate work contracts.

We salute efforts to protect workers forced to accept contractor status inappropriately.

However, we choose this status out of a business necessity. If this freedom is curtailed and we are forced to become employees, our competitiveness will be drastically reduced, possibly beyond repair. Our livelihood and the well-being of our families will suffer significantly.

Through our profession’s long history in the United States and abroad, the independent contractor status of conference interpreters and translators has been shown to work. We respectfully ask that conference interpreters and translators’ freedom to choose independent contractor status be respected and urge you to include the professions of conference interpreter and translator on the list of professions exempted from the employee status requirements of California Assembly Bill 5 and the Dynamex Decision.

Respectfully submitted, 

Pascale Ledeur Kraus 

President, On behalf of the Council of The American Association of Language Specialists – TAALS


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