Helping Members Through Difficult Times

As I write this, we’re about two months into the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. According to at least one model, the situation is showing signs of improvement, but will not approach normal until the beginning of June. Whatever the timeline, I have faith that we will persevere and survive this crisis.

The economic impact of the pandemic has affected all our members. Many conference interpreters have seen their business shut down entirely. Many other interpreters have also seen a severe reduction in their work volume, while the assignments that remain are switching over to remote interpreting. Our interpreter members are thus grappling with reduced volume and having to switch to new modes of providing their services. The impact on translators has been more varied. While some have reported a massive decline in work, others have not yet seen a change, while still others have reported an increase in projects related to the coronavirus.

However you may have been impacted by this crisis, ATA is here to help. The volunteers on the Professional Development Committee and the staff at ATA Headquarters have been working feverishly to create new webinars on remote interpreting to help interpreters make the switch to this mode of providing their services. ATA is providing these webinars, as well as the ATA58 virtual conference free of charge to help members get continuing education points and make the best use of any downtime caused by the pandemic. (Go to https://bit.ly/ATA58-virtual, log in with your membership number, and enjoy!)

ATA Website and AMS

Speaking of Headquarters, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the entire staff for their hard work and dedication during this crisis. They are the people who make these webinars and other offerings available to you, who are constantly updating the website with announcements and news that you need during this critical time, or answering your emails and phone calls, all while dealing with their own personal challenges caused by the pandemic. And even though the entire staff is working remotely, which brings its own set of challenges, not only are they successfully meeting the normal day-to-day work requirements, they’re also meeting the additional requirements imposed on them by the pandemic while continuing their work on two very major projects.

The ATA website redesign—a massive project involving every single ATA committee and division and covering thousands of webpages—is now in its final stages. We hope to have a launch date within the next several weeks.

At the same time, the staff has also been putting in a massive effort on the new Association Management Software (AMS) system. This AMS software will replace our current database with state-of-the-art technology that will increase efficiency in many work processes while improving communication with members. This project is even more extensive than the website revamp as it involves every single work procedure and process at Headquarters.

So, I would encourage you to take a moment to send a brief email to ata@atanet.org saying thanks to Walter, Roshan, Mary, Kirk, Caron, Jamie, Cathy, Adrian, Jeff, Trish, and Teresa.

Advocacy Efforts

The Advocacy Committee (formerly the Government Relations Committee) has also been hard at work during the past several weeks. Working with the Joint National Committee for Languages-National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS), we lobbied for inclusion of independent contractors in economic relief legislation such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act recently passed by Congress. (See the CARES feature in this issue.) We continue to monitor legislation for “Phase 4” of the government’s response to the pandemic.

The Advocacy Committee also continues to monitor legislation related to worker classification, in particular proposed amendments to AB 5 in California. Thanks in large part to the efforts of the Coalition of Practicing Translators and Interpreters of California (CoPTIC), we are pleased to see the introduction of SB 900, which would exempt most translators and interpreters from the “ABC test” imposed by AB 5. Instead, SB 900 mandates application of the multifactor Borello test to determine employee or independent contractor status.

While SB 900 is an improvement on the status quo under AB 5, in particular due to the express inclusion of sole proprietors in the permissible forms of business entities, there are several issues of varying degrees of importance from ATA’s perspective that should be addressed and resolved before ATA can fully support the bill. Among others, those issues include placement of the exemption under the “referral agency” section instead of the section for “professional services,” the question of whether “non-certified” translation and interpreting services are covered by the exemption, and the meaning of the phrase “good standing” with respect to membership in the various translator and interpreter associations listed in the bill.

ATA encourages its members to continue to support CoPTIC in its efforts to improve the wording of SB 900, and strongly urges members in California to contact their state assemblypersons and senators and advocate for improvements to and passage of SB 900. (To read the full text of SB 900, visit https://bit.ly/SB900-California.) While SB 900 is far from perfect, it’s a good starting place for us to lobby for improvements in the final wording. (See the feature in this issue to read ATA’s Statement on California Senate Bill 900 Amending AB 5.)

Board Actions

In upholding my promise to keep you apprised of policy updates, at its February meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, the Board of Directors passed a “policy on policies” in keeping with the finest bureaucratic traditions. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist adding just a touch of levity to this otherwise all-too-serious column.) Actually, it’s a Policy Review policy which mandates that, going forward, all new policies will be assigned a review date not more than five years from the adoption date. All currently existing policies are being examined and will be assigned a review date of no later than February 2025.

The Board also approved a Conflict of Interest Policy as required by the state of New York. All ATA officers, directors, and key volunteers (committee chairs, division administrators and assistant administrators, and spokespeople) will be required to complete a conflict of interest disclosure form annually.

That’s it for this issue. Stay safe, stay positive, and stay appropriately socially distanced!

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