Setback for California’s Translators and Interpreters as SB900 Shelved

SB900 Shelved in Setback for Translators and Interpreters

California’s Translators and Interpreters (T&Is), hurt by the AB5-coronavirus one-two punch, as covered by Slator in April, will have to continue fighting to make the state’s legislators hear their voices.

A number of T&I groups were looking to California Senate Bill 900 (SB900) to amend AB5 and effect changes that would, among other things, stop translation and interpreting jobs from being assigned to linguists out of state due to the hurdles created by AB5.

The Senate had calendared a hearing on SB900 for May 14, 2020. On May 15, however, the status of the bill on the California State Legislature website was updated to read: “May 14 set for first hearing canceled at the request of author.”

On May 14, just before 2 p.m. California time, the lobby group CoPTIC tweeted: “CoPTIC expresses deep disappointment that state lawmakers on the Senate Labor Committee today ignored the voices of thousands of translators and interpreters throughout California and shelved #SB900.”

As mentioned previously, SB900 had been approved on second reading and groups, such as the American Translators Association (ATA), were working to improve the bill to reflect reality and benefit a greater number of language industry professionals.

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Lorena Ortiz Schneider of Ortiz Schneider Interpreting & Translation had told Slator in April that “CoPTIC’s leadership and the support of our 1500+ followers, collectively earned the introduction of SB 900. We are in close contact with the drafter of the bill and continue to perfect the exemption language so that it is as inclusive as possible.”

A CoPTIC newsletter headline at the time stated that SB900 “respects linguists” and “aims to stop cutoffs of our livelihoods and expert service.” Even as it expressed “tentative support for this legislation,” the group said they would continue working with California’s lawmakers to “secure amendments and solutions that respect the indispensable contributions of language professionals.”

The group’s disappointment over the the cancelation of the SB900 hearing was, therefore, palpable as it wrote in a follow-on tweet: “The pulling of SB 900 reinforces just how little lawmakers know and appreciate the work of translators and interpreters, even as they use the profession to do their work (interpreting at COVID briefings and events) and keep their jobs (translation of ballots and voting info).”

The group promised that their “fight for justice persists, on behalf of the diverse communities we come from and do our very best to honor and give voice to.”

Meanwhile, the California State Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment has scheduled hearings on May 20, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. On the agenda are two bills by AB5 author, State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, AB 1850 and AB 2257, both of which have to do with independent contractors.

Slator will continue to monitor any new developments out of California.