What is Antitrust?
There are some good concepts to be discussed here! I’ll add my own concerns soon.
One reason I bring up this issue of “Antitrust” and price-fixing is that interpreters – spoken and sign language – are going through huge professional growing pains, and hopefully learning from the pains and wisdom of other professions.
As an ASL-English Interpreter, there are many occasions where I am an Independent Contractor (IC), sent to an assignment by an ASL-English Interpreter Referral Agency (agency). The agency has worked to build rapport, understanding, and eventually a contract with some business that employs or does business with Deaf/Hard of Hearing signing individuals. The agency coordinates and schedules Interpreters to drive from somewhere (not always home) to the job site, provide ASL-English Interpretation on-site, and then go elsewhere (not always home).
Throughout the process of obtaining the job and arriving, as the IC, I may come across information concerning agency payscales, location hourly charges, policies, etc. It would be unethical for me as the IC, representing the agency, to solicit business or somehow convince the location to switch to another agency – or directly bill ME to provide ASL-English Interpretation services.
In my mind, Antitrust would seem to refer to the paragraphs upon paragraphs in IC Contracts that discuss such non-compete ideas. It would be a concept for the larger agencies to consider, not the sole proprietor/IC.
Yet here, Antitrust is meant to also focus on price-fixing and how ICs could potentially band together in order to create some false arrogance and push agencies out of business, monopolizing the ASL-English (or other spoken language) Interpreting field. This banding together is a far-and-inbetween occurrence for ASL-English Interpreters in America. To my knowledge, there have only been a handful of successful ASL-English Interpreter bargaining opportunities in the past decade or so: Washington, D.C.., Washington State, and somewhere else in middle America.
My professional organization seems to think that if *I*, sole owner, choose to discuss my hourly fees, policies, or other price-related information on social media platforms or in public, it could be construed as “Antitrust” and cause to be blacklisted from agencies, contracts, and future assignments. I don’t even know if I could be legally liable for any repercussions!
Now, I understand that bullying and coercing all of my colleagues and friends to only charge the fees and schedules that I charge would be easily seen as “price fixing” to the agencies (regardless that the agencies’ contracts with their individual businesses and locations would most likely have fee/rate variations and differences!). But I’m not doing that, nor even expecting colleagues and friends to charge the exact same as me!
What I am doing is telling colleagues and friends to raise their base rates/fees and policies to include: Travel Considerations (time, mileage, parking, tolls, etc.), Prep/Preview Needs, Insurance & Professional Considerations (E&O Insurance, self-employment Insurance, etc.), and Cost Of Living differentials.
So, are Antitrust laws being incorrectly applied by Professional Organizations and Interpreting Referral Agencies? I think so.
Are there situations where individual interpreters are out there demanding that EVERYONE establish a single hourly charge/fee? I haven’t seen any evidence. (In unionization efforts, due to the specifics of unionization, the interpreters are hired as Employees and not ICs, therefore standard base-pay rates established by companies is legal and allowable, and would not fall under Antitrust concerns.)
What can YOU do about this issue? Be aware of the Antitrust Laws. Know what your Professional Organizations and Agencies are requiring of you. Speak up when you know the Antitrust laws are being incorrectly applied AND offer resources with correct information. Be courteous and firm, and don’t back down when refusing to sign “Antitrust Policy” paperwork if you know it’s bollocks. (Though I may choose to sign it with my fingers crossed, because it wouldn’t be legally enforceable in my home state anyway!) 😛
Learn, Question, Challenge, Share, Listen.