Two of the speakers set for the Mobilize 2020, TTA’s annual convention and expo, are familiar names to members of The Transportation Alliance, but the first to take the podium at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta this November will be a new face to almost everyone in attendance.
Phillip Russell, a longtime labor and employment lawyer with the international firm Ogletree Deakins in Tampa, Florida, is scheduled to speak on Saturday, Nov. 7, with his presentation, “COVID Hot Topics for Employers Now and in the Next Phase.”
“I’m going to discuss the employment law issues that employers have been facing, and continue to face, as a result of the pandemic,” Russell said from his home in Clearwater, Florida, where he is a friend of TTA's president-elect, Nick Cambas. “There’s workplace safety and health issues involving regulatory actions by OSHA [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration], and legal exposure by lawsuits. I’ll also touch upon some laws passed earlier in the year that have given rise to litigation in the fall.”
The 50-year-old Russell, who has been practicing law for 25 years, said the biggest thing that has struck him most over the tumultuous past six months was the government’s closing of private businesses due to COVID-19. “It’s not something we’ve ever experienced in my lifetime,” Russell said.
“The real challenge for business owners and lawyers is what is and what is not legally required today,” he continued. “Everyone says they have to follow CDC [Centers of Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines, but do you really? The CDC is not a regulatory body; OSHA is the regulatory agency.”
Russell said most people believe, including some of his own clients, that the CDC guidance is now the law. “You pull random people off the street and ask them that question, they say the CDC, but it’s not the law,” he said. “So that’s an interesting point that I will talk about. I’m looking forward to getting up there and meeting your members.”
He is also “very tuned in” to the gig economy, and so he will definitely be speaking about the independent contractor versus employee discussion that has been the talk of the industry for years, and especially recently. Russell said that while he has not worked within the for-hire passenger transportation industry, he does work with a trucking-logistics client, “and from an employment law perspective it’s very similar.”
The main speaker for Sunday morning’s general session will be Matt Daus, partner at the law firm Windels Marx, who has spoken at each of TTA's last 10 annual conventions. Daus has worked with TTA for some 20 years, dating back to when he was commissioner and chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission for eight years.
Daus’ presentation will have the ear of every member of TTA in attendance, as it will deal with Paycheck Protection Program Loan forgiveness and other federal assistance. The forgiveness question is still a constantly changing scenario and Daus expects it to morph even more in the weeks leading up to Mobilize 2020.
“There have been so many changes to the program, which is understandable, as the whole thing was so rushed to begin with, and I still think there are more changes to come,” Daus said. “A lot of our clients, and even the banks, are very leery of what’s going to happen with the forgiveness.
“Some have said it was too good to be true, and they’re going to get screwed,” Daus added. “There has not been as much guidance for bankers, as well, so I think there’s a lot of fear out there. But I’m pretty sure, when I get in front of the membership, that I’ll be able to say you’re going to be in the clear.”
“The message I’m going to deliver to members is here’s what unclear, and this is what you can do to get forgiveness. My goal is to give you the facts, tell you what’s solid and what’s not, and look to alleviate the fears about forgiveness that the membership is feeling right now.”
The speaker closing out Mobilize 2020 Monday afternoon is TTA's legislative counsel, Paul Miller. Monday’s discussion will be very much in the minds of every attendee, as it will pertain to the federal election result and its impact on TTA's members.
“If you listen to some economists who’ve come out this past week, they say the path forward will be better under Biden than Trump, but I don’t know,” Miller said. “What I do know is it’s going to be very different if there is a change in power.”
The possible change of leadership in the executive branch will also play a role in Miller’s other presentation, set for Monday morning, which will cover the U.S. Department of Labor’s new independent contractor rule-making framework put forth on Sept. 22.
“Hopefully we’ll have a clearer picture of how it will look by convention time, but I’m also not sure it won’t be challenged under the congressional review act,” Miller said. “I’m also sure that if Biden wins he’ll will want to put his own touches on the thing. It’s getting pretty close to election day, so the current administration will have to pump that out before the election happens.”
Those registered to attend Mobilize 2020 will surely be leaving Atlanta with a wealth of information necessary to get back on the road to economic recovery. Between TTA’s exceptional line up of speakers, an impressive array of exhibitors and networking opportunities galore, Mobilize 2020 will provide an informative, innovative and, most importantly, safe environment. Masks will be required for all attendees and all events will be set up to ensure social distancing according to CDC guidelines.
To further ensure a safe event, all registrations must be completed online by October 26—no walk-up, on-site registrations will be allowed. If you have not registered yet, do it today while there is still time! Just go to our convention page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mike Biglin, Melwood Global