ATA61: Making Your Welfare a Priority

As most of you know by now, we have canceled the in-person conference in Boston and decided to hold ATA61 as a virtual conference. While I’ll leave it to ATA President-Elect Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo to provide the details on how the virtual conference will be structured (see From the President-Elect), I do want to explain why the Board of Directors had to wait so long to make the decision.

Under the terms of our contracts with the conference hotel and other conference service providers, the Association would have had to pay penalties or cancelation fees of about $500,000 if we canceled the event absent a government ban or other “good cause.” Even mentioning plans to cancel could have had adverse financial consequences. We were thus forced to continue to plan an in-person event while we negotiated with the conference hotel.

Experient, our event management partner, and ATA Headquarters were finally able to negotiate acceptable cancelation terms with the conference hotel. They would waive any penalty if we would agree to hold the conference at the hotel in 2025. Once the massive financial loss was no longer a concern, the Board was able to make the decision many of you had wanted us to make sooner.

While we always make the welfare of our members our main priority, the Board also had a fiduciary responsibility to avoid incurring such massive financial penalties if possible. That’s why we had to wait as long as we did to make the decision.

I’m confident that while a virtual ATA61 will be a different experience for attendees, it will provide just as much, if not more, value to attendees. I look forward to seeing you there virtually!

With respect to the economic impact of the pandemic, even in light of the recent uptick in infections and some rollbacks of business reopenings, I remain optimistic about the prospects for the economic recovery of the translation and interpreting industry.

The downturn in national economies of developed countries appears to have slowed and the first, faltering steps are being taken on the path to recovery and a return to normalcy. While it is likely to take years for the global economy to return to pre-pandemic levels, any uptick is welcome news to the translation and interpreting industry, which is inextricably tied to global trade. A survey by CSA Research1 showed that 52% of respondents, mainly language services companies, expect enterprise language spending will either increase or stay the same over the next 12 months.

Here in the U.S., an unexpectedly high increase in hiring (in many cases, rehiring) in May and the loosening of lockdown restrictions on businesses give cause for cautious optimism that the economy and society may slowly return to normal over the coming months.

The pandemic is not the only crisis our members are facing. In California, our efforts to advocate for an exemption for professional translators and interpreters from the devastating economic effects of AB 5 have had mixed results. Senate Bill 900, which would have provided an exemption for translators and interpreters, was shelved by California’s Senate Labor Committee in May. Other proposed amendments to AB 5 were also shelved or killed in committee. It appears that only Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the sponsor of AB 5, will be allowed to propose amendments that have any chance of being passed by the legislature.

Her proposed amendments in AB 1850 include an exemption for “certified translators” under the professional services provisions. While the inclusion of translators under “professional services” is a major victory in itself—certainly compared with being included under “referral services” along with pet sitters—the complete exclusion of interpreters is unacceptable. We will continue our advocacy efforts, and we strongly encourage each and every professional translator and interpreter in California to contact their representatives2 in the California Senate and Assembly and demand that the exemption be expanded to include all professional translators and interpreters.

Notes
  1. “COVID-19 Enterprise Survey Data: Overall Results (CSA Research), https://bit.ly/CSA-COVID19-survey.
  2. Find Your California Representative, http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.
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