The South Asian Bar Association of Northern California has condemned the harassment of Veena Dubal, an Indian-American professor of law at the University of California Hastings, allegedly by supporters of Prop 22.
Prop 22 will be on the California ballot November 3. If Prop 22 is passed, California would consider app-based drivers to be independent contractors and not employees or agents of the app-cab companies.
Prop 22, if passed, would override California AB5, an Assembly bill signed into law September 18, 2019 by governor Gavin Newsom designed to determine a worker’s status as an independent contractor or an employee.
AB5 was vociferously opposed by tech companies in the automotive business, mainly Uber and Lyft, leading to a case at the California Superior Court in San Francisco. The judge last month granted an injunction in favor of AB5, stating that Uber and Lyft were in violation of AB5 for classifying their workers as independent contractors.
In response, the app-cab companies have threatened to shut down business in California and have also moved the California First District Court of Appeal. The hearing is due October 13.
Professor Dubal has been a victim of harassment online — on social media such as Twitter — because she is opposed to the Prop 22, Charanjit ‘Charan’ Brahma, president and board member of South Asian Bar Association of Northern California (SABA-NC) told indica News.
“Her view is that independent contractors be treated more like an employee and that is consistent with the law that California has passed last year,” Brahma said.
Brahma said SABA-NC has not taken any stand on Prop 22, and that Dubal has taken the position on her own.
“But the reason we got involved is because of the harassment of her online,” Brahma said. “So we are definitely taking a position against online harassment. We are really concerned about it,” he said.
The SABA-NC statement backing Dubal said: “Recently, at least two media outlets reported that a political advocacy group funded by Uber/Postmates, Doordash, Instacart, and Lyft has targeted Veena Dubal, a law professor at UC Hastings and a South Asian Bar Association of Northern California (SABA-NC) member, on Twitter over efforts to get their workers classified as employees.”
Dubal, the statement pointed out, “is a prominent advocate for AB5 and open critic of Proposition 22, a ballot measure aimed at maintaining the classification of gig workers as independent contractors. The group, Yes on Proposition 22, is dedicated to promoting Proposition 22 and operates under the Twitter handle, @VoteYesOn22.”
It added: “@VoteYesOn22 has encouraged Twitter users to post screenshots of notifications that they have been blocked by Dubal. The account then retweeted screenshots from users who purported to be gig drivers. Over the past 6 months, Dubal has received a number of threats and vulgar messages, some targeting her based on her race.”
In March, the statement said, a user doxxed Dubal by posting her home address on Twitter.
“This was especially concerning for her because it occurred during the Covid-19 lockdown. Dubal claims that she has been harassed offline as well. She fears for her safety, as well as the safety of her family,” the statement said.
It added: “To be clear, we take no position on Proposition 22 itself. With that said, acts of harassment and threats, including those that are based on race and directed against South Asians, have no legitimate role in civil discourse. We condemn anyone who is harassing or doxxing Dubal.”
Contacted, Geoff Vetter, media spokesperson for the “Yes on 22 campaign,” told indica News: “We may disagree on policy, but we should be able to do so without being disagreeable.”
Vetter said: “The campaign’s post simply asked why an advocate for drivers is silencing the very drivers who disagree. We condemn any harassment of Professor Dubal.”
Asked about Vetter’s comments, Brahma said: “We tried to make it clear that we don’t want to accuse the companies behind it but do have a sense that even if they are not behind the statements, they probably have some ability help stop that type of harassment from happening.”
Brahma also agreed that when there is a contentious political issue certain groups do get involved in such type of harassment.
“And politics is getting more contentious. So, there is certainly this fear it would become more common, it’s a nationwide phenomenon.”
He added: “Some of the harassment… releasing her address… it’s not legitimate and some comments online are a clear, directed attack to her race.”