Coordinated Attacks on AB5 Opponents Led by Law Professor Veena Dubal, Assisted by Twitter Employees

AP Photo/Samantha Maldonado

 

(This is Part 2 in a series exposing the collusion between organized labor, Asm. Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher’s office, the No on Proposition 22 coalition, and labor law professor Veena Dubal to intimidate and harass opponents of California’s AB5.)

For someone who “had no hand in creating” California’s controversial freelance-job-killing bill, AB5, or in its implementation, UC Hastings College of the Law Professor Veena Dubal’s hands seem to have been involved in every step along the way.

The professor is the central figure in numerous recent articles and opinion pieces with titles like “How millions from Uber and Lyft are funding the harassment of a critic” (LA Times) and “Why Is an Advocacy Group Funded by Uber and Lyft Hounding a Law Professor on Twitter?” (Slate), spurred by a CNET article in which Dubal claimed she was being harassed and doxxed by troll armies and “reply guys” funded by Uber and Lyft.

Dubal says she had inadvertently been pulled into a bizarre world where people on Twitter and Facebook seemed to think she was behind…Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), that addressed labor protections for gig workers.

The law was actually authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a Democrat from San Diego, someone Dubal had met only a couple of times, in group settings.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In addition to her academic work leading to the Dynamex decision and its “codification” in AB5 (described in more detail below), Dubal is one of three leaders of a Twitter Direct Message (DM) group comprised of Big Union reps (both foreign and domestic), California State Assembly employees, No on Proposition 22 coalition organizations, and members of drivers unions. According to information provided to RedState, Dubal partnered with veteran labor organizer Nicole Moore and professional agitator Dave Craige to:

  • Lead a bait-and-switch organizing effort among Bay Area Uber/Lyft drivers with the goal of folding their “grassroots” organization into SEIU
  • Dox Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi (publicize his private information)
  • Organize and stage protests outside Khosrowshahi’s home
  • Work with high-level Twitter employees to silence dissenting voices
  • Conduct a targeted harassment campaign against a private citizen
  • List/target more than 200 Uber employees and investors
  • Connect supportive drivers with sympathetic journalists to place puff pieces disguised as serious journalism

Dubal’s Involvement With Dynamex, AB5

Professor Dubal’s work at Hastings centers on “precarity,” or precarious/unstable work situations. She’s written about gig workers, specifically about Uber and Lyft drivers, for nearly a decade. Before that, she “studied” the taxi industry and classification of taxi drivers. Articles in 2016 and 2017 cite failed legislative efforts Asm. Gonzalez-Fletcher made to essentially unionize Uber and Lyft drivers and mention her conversations with Gonzalez-Fletcher’s staff and organized labor leaders about the progress of those bills. In the articles, Dubal is clearly of the belief that gig workers should be represented by Big Labor.

In 2017 Dubal penned a California Law Review article that was cited by the California Supreme Court in its April 2018 decision in Dynamex. The decision made the “ABC” test outlined in Dubal’s paper to determine whether a person should be classified as an employee or an independent contractor the new standard in California. Asm. Gonzalez-Fletcher introduced AB5 in December 2018 (sponsored by the California Labor Federation) and sold it to her fellow legislators and the press by saying it was simply a codification of what a “unanimous” California Supreme Court had already ruled.

In a congratulatory piece posted on the law school’s website, Dubal is quoted as saying:

“They definitely cited to my paper… and the spirit of the paper is certainly imbued throughout the decision.”

Well, Professor Dubal, if the spirit of the paper is imbued throughout the decision, and AB5 is simply the Dynamex decision codified, then yes, you are one of the architects of AB5.

Dubal and Gonzalez-Fletcher quickly got their efforts to pass AB5 underway. Dubal was the star witness at the February 26 informational hearing before the Assembly Labor & Employment Committee.

Dubal’s Involvement With Organizing Gig Workers

In the summer of 2019, as AB5 was making its way through the legislative process in Sacramento, Dubal was busy at work organizing Uber and Lyft drivers into a “union” along with Nicole Moore, a longtime SEIU operative who currently works for the Los Angeles County Public Health Department and who was a very part-time driver. The photo below shows Dubal with Nicole Moore and Judah Bell at the organizational meeting of Rideshare Drivers United, a meeting Bell says Dubal led. (The relationship between Dubal, Moore, Transportation Workers Union, and multiple “grassroots” workers organizations that have sprung up in the Silicon Valley over the past three years will be the focus of a future installment.)

Once AB5 was passed Dubal was interviewed in numerous articles describing the bill’s impact and scoffed at the concerns of freelance professionals like photographers, interpreters, writers, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, musicians, and more, saying their concerns were overblown. In one 21-tweet thread aimed at freelance writers, Dubal claimed that freelance writers whose work is more than just regurgitating news/facts would not be affected by AB5. Her words at the end of the thread perfectly illustrate her attitude toward people whose livelihoods were threatened/demolished as a result of AB5:

And finally, please stop making over broad, hysterical legal claims about how employment regulations violate the US constitution. They don’t…unless we want them to. That is to say, the law is malleable & reflects ideological shifts.

Only the powerful benefit from hysteria and misinformation around simple employment regulations.

Lastly, this is all I have to say about this on Twitter. This is the law. And the constant misinformation is exhausting.

Many writers relied upon Dubal’s analysis, given her claimed expertise in the subject matter. Unfortunately, Dubal’s analysis was way off; freelance writers now enjoy an exemption in a “clean-up” bill passed August 31, 2020. (Perhaps that’s why they’re slightly antagonistic toward her on Twitter?)

Once affected independent contractors started organizing (meaning, true grassroots organizing not sponsored by any company or group) in December 2019 to speak out against AB5 and advocate for a full repeal, the Twitter DM group Dubal leads with Nicole Moore and Dave Craige swung into action. Additional screen captures provided to RedState show that the actions taken by the group are more nefarious than first thought.

This screencap shows that Dubal, Craige, and Moore are in charge of who gets in the group and who gets kicked out.

As a reminder, the official accounts for organizations sponsoring the “No on Proposition 22” campaign, high-ranking employees from California Labor Federation and the CA Building & Trade union, individuals working for No on Prop 22 organizations, and Asm. Gonzalez-Fletcher’s chief of staff and communications director are all in this group.

In this series of screencaps, Dave Craige brags that the group has “three Twitter engineers” helping them report a “harassing tweet” against Dubal.

The tweet in question, posted by the Yes on Proposition 22 campaign, called Dubal out for systematically blocking drivers on Twitter who disagreed with her and asked people who’d been blocked to reply with a screenshot. Ooh. Scary.

The “Twitter engineers” are Danny McClanahan, Dantley Davis (who’s actually Twitter’s Chief Design Officer) and Paul Stamatiou, who happens to be Dubal’s best friend’s brother. Craige then instructs the group on how to report the tweet.

Just how much were these Twitter employees “helping” the group? Are they still? This is extremely disturbing.

On August 8, Craige shares a tweet with the group in which he “challenges” a pastor who’s a vocal critic of AB5, accusing him of being paid by Uber. Craige urges group members to bully, harass, or “challeng[e] people like this over the next few months.”

That tweet is far more harassing than the one aimed at Veena Dubal that made them apoplectic.

In addition to “people like th[at]” pastor, Craige created a list of more than 200 Uber employees and investors for the group to target on Twitter and ask that they sign a petition created by Nicole Moore/Rideshare Drivers United.

Dubal also recruited drivers who are members of the group to be interviewed for an NPR story about Uber and Lyft drivers and pandemic sick time, asking them to email her using her Hastings email address. Is it too much to ask an NPR reporter to find their own sources for a story, perhaps by searching on Twitter or posting their own announcement publicly on Twitter asking for people who requested sick leave time from Uber or Lyft and had been denied? Ahh, but that might not provide the consistently negative replies the group would want to highlight.

Is that an academic or political use of Dubal’s work email address?

The trio also used the group to organize and carry out multiple protests – with Dubal taking leadership positions in advising drivers what to do/what not to do – and to “dox” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi by carrying out a “protest” in front of his home. Remember, this is the woman who claimed that the stress of having the address her husband lists on his California State Bar, which is their home address, posted on Twitter for a few weeks before the offending tweet was deleted has left her sleepless and worried for months. (That tweet did not call for anyone to go to Dubal’s home and protest; it was pointing out the hypocrisy of a woman living in a multi-million dollar home and receiving her state salary during the pandemic shutdown while asking drivers to play games with their PUA applications. More on that in another installment.)

The video below shows the conversations.

But sure, Professor Dubal, stick with the narrative that you’ve “inadvertently been pulled into a bizarre world” where people think you’re somehow behind AB5. It’s the millions of California professionals who happily worked as freelancers and independent contractors who were inadvertently pulled into a bizarre world.