• Alysa Salzberg

Why California’s freelance translators and interpreters are fighting for their jobs

Updated: Jan 21


We all know that good intentions don’t always mean good results. That’s very true in the case of AB5 (short for California Assembly Bill 5), which became law in the state of California on January 1.


The law was created to protect workers from being exploited. For example, under AB5, employers must classify workers as employees and thus provide them with benefits and other rights. This sounds like a good thing, right?


But what about people who are working and thriving in the current gig economy? Among these are freelancers, including freelance translators and interpreters.


The confusingly worded law would make regular freelance work illegal in the state of California. Not only is this a problem for freelancers themselves; it also has numerous negative implications for society in general, including decreased or even no access to interpreters for people who speak rare languages.


So far, AB5 has been challenged by a number of lawsuits against the state of California, filed by companies and individuals, including freelancers. The trucking industry has managed to get an injunction, but others whose livelihoods are threatened by this law still have to fight.


Read on for a California-based interpreter’s view of the situation.



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