ASTA has pushed hard to persuade California legislators to
exempt travel advisors from a more restrictive method of classifying independent
contractors (ICs), and now the trade group waits to see if its efforts pay off.
The Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee
is slated to meet Wednesday to hear Assembly Bill 5, which would require the
hiring entity's business to be outside the work that ICs perform. Host agencies
that don't sell travel would probably fulfill this requirement, but travel
agencies with a small hosting business would not. The latter would need an
exemption to continue business as usual in California.
ASTA was asked to supply the labor committee with language it
wants in the bill to exempt travel agents. ASTA general counsel Peter Lobasso
said it simply requested that "sellers of travel" be added to the
list of exempt professions.
As for the likelihood of Assembly Bill 5 becoming law, Lobasso
said it is almost a sure thing that California's Assembly and Senate will pass the
bill and that Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign it later this year.
"It's going to pass," Lobasso said. "It's
inevitable. Barring some type of monumental, unforeseen event, it is
going to pass. It's just a question of whether or not the exemption is in that
Lobasso said most industries that have already secured
exemptions are those that require licensed workers like real estate agents, attorneys,
dentists and engineers. Travel agents in California must be registered to sell
travel, but registration is different than licensing, Lobasso said.
With licensing, the state is essentially evaluating a person's
fitness to engage in their profession. Registration is used to track who is
selling travel in case a consumer files a complaint to the state's attorney
Last week, Lobasso said ASTA provided all 40 senators'
offices with literature about why travel advisors should get an exemption, plus
Lobasso and director of advocacy Genevieve Strand had in-person meetings
with staffers. An emphasis was placed on meeting with the offices of senators
on the labor committee.
Lobasso is hopeful but also pragmatic.
"At the end of the day, it's an ask," he said. "We
tried to make a persuasive case. But one thing we have to keep in mind is there
are dozens of other industries whose folks have been going through the labor
committee members' staffs, so I think we have to keep it in perspective."
Accompanying Lobasso and Strand on the Sacramento trip were ASTA
board members Brian Chapin (senior director of air supplier relations, Ensemble
Travel Group) and Betsy Geiser (vice president, Uniglobe Travel Center). It is not
unusual for ASTA to send such a contingent to meet with legislators in Washington,
but rare to do so for a single state. Lobasso said that highlights the issue's
The California Coalition of Travel Organizations (CCTO) also
has met with California legislators. The CCTO's president is Diane Embree, an
IC with Michael's Travel Centre.
"At the end of the day, we left feeling hopeful,"
Geiser said. "We'll do whatever we have to do to get a carve-out or an
amendment to this bill."