ASTA director of advocacy Genevieve Strand testified on Thursday before the New York State Assembly's labor committee about why travel advisors should continue to be able to be classified as independent contractors as they are today. A new labor bill would bring changes.

New York this year introduced legislation that would make it difficult for travel advisors to be categorized as ICs. The legislation is similar to a law passed in California earlier this year, but travel advisors lobbied for an exemption in California and got one.

In New York, the legislation introduced would require travel advisors to "perform work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business." Under that condition, travel agencies couldn't use independent contractors.

The New York legislature is technically in recess but Strand said it held a hearing on the gig economy this week. Strand walked the committee through the way the bill's language is written and why it is problematic for the travel industry. The information was well received, she said.

"I think it was an interesting change of pace to hear about some of the folks that [the bill's authors] weren't thinking about in this bill, but that wind up being sort of collateral damage," Strand said. "I think they were surprised."

She encouraged lawmakers to look at how recent labor bills were written in other states. In New Jersey, for example, independent contractors can either perform work outside of what the hiring entity does or perform the same kind of work but from outside the hiring entity's physical location. The latter condition enables travel agencies to use ICs.

Though legislation was introduced in New York this year, it would have to be reintroduced next year when the legislature reconvenes, something ASTA expects to happen.

In the interim, ASTA is encouraging members in New York to use its grassroots portal to send messages to legislators. In the new year, Strand said, ASTA will begin setting up in-person meetings with legislators.


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