Alongside Trump, Uber feeling the fallout of its policies

Twitter campaign #DeleteUber a sign that the company took a step too far by taking advantage of demonstration

Originally published January 31, 2017

If the 45th president of the U.S. decides to adopt another kid, he might as well make it Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Oh, I know, what use does he have for yet one more squirrely, money-hungry, rules-are-for-other-people, thin-skinned sycophant?

As you might have noticed, that country is at a turning point, and a pitch point, in history. Never before has such a spotlight been shone on the inner workings and inherent weaknesses of the system so many took for granted, regardless of which party was having a turn at the wheel.

Now, with a merry band of plunderers kicking everybody else out of the room and bolting the door so they can play with all the toys, America will see just what President 45 is capable of unleashing, abetted by those happy to go look for kindling to add to fire that 45 prepares to play his fiddle beside.

But why am I picking on poor old Travis, again? Because it’s just too easy. Uber and I go back a long way; I’ve hated it since it launched, breaking rules, treating its drivers like crap, putting profits ahead of people at every single turn yet pretending it is an industry leader. It has a good cell phone application. That’s it. As a principled business, it left its muddy shoes on and marched right into your city. I’ve stood by my judgment all this time. I continue to.

Over the weekend, when 45 unleashed yet another round of unconstitutional edicts barring Muslims from entering a country when they’d had prior clearance, leaving them stranded at airports (unless your Muslim country had a Trump Hotel, and then, hey, you’re cool), New York City Taxi Drivers Alliance staged a one hour work stoppage to JFK airport in support of the demonstration. You may have noticed those demonstrations; they happened all over the U.S. at every major airport. Hey 45, seems like every gathering is bigger than your inauguration was.

Those taxi drivers formed yet another link in the chain of resistance to the tyranny forming to the south that isn’t even bothering to pretend it’s anything else. When a president, even a puppet one, signs off on made-up laws with no congressional or senate oversight and with no view to adhering to the law, he doesn’t get to be president anymore: he gets to be King.

So Uber, of course, being made up of drivers who represent such a cross section of the cities they flourish in, did the only smart thing: it scabbed out those drivers. Instead of seeing a viable moment to stand in solidarity with millions around the U.S. (yes, millions, and wait until the science marches begin) its CEO, Travis Kalanick, instead saw an opportunity to profit. He promoted his service with a Tweet (“Surge pricing has been turned off at #JFK Airport. This may result in longer wait times. Please be patient.”), which he later apologized for.

It was too late. The hashtag #DeleteUber dominated the social media sphere within minutes. And remember, that is the place that places like Uber live, and stumble. The actions of 45 have unleashed a sleeping giant of an electorate that perhaps realized too little, too late, but have realized, nonetheless. Many of us will be using economic sanctions of our own; we learned them from global governments, and they work. Like those that 45 is about to lift from his buddy Putin.

I’m sure Kalanick is still just giddy from getting to be on the White House business advisory group (Elon Musk is another member) and maybe he’s just trying to impress Papa 45 that he’s got the stones. The problem of course, with a fascist in control, means you’re trying to impress a fascist. I hope others on that board have a more encompassing worldview than Uber.

Lyft, on the other hand, Uber’s chief competitor in most markets, pivoted in an instant and made a million dollar donation to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Is it a business tactic? Sure it is. But Uber performed one kind of business tactic – side with those with money – while Lyft did another – side with those making history. I don’t actually believe Lyft’s action is any less about capitalizing on the situation as it unfolded, but it is savvier. Now if only all ride sharing companies treated their drivers more fairly, maybe even I’d stop ragging on them.

Kalanick and Uber can backpedal all they like. I hope those who deleted them, keep them deleted. And I think they might.

Update: In the wake of the overwhelming pressure applied following the #deleteuber campaign – according to the New York Times, more than 200,000 people deleted their account – Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced he was stepping down from the President’s Advisory Council. “Immigration and openness to refugees is an important part of our country’s success and quite honestly to Uber’s,” he said in a statement to employees.

This entry was posted in Drive She Said. Bookmark the permalink.

One response to Alongside Trump, Uber feeling the fallout of its policies

  1. Pat says:

    Another Uber oops! Hope they crash and burn, not literally. Delete away my pets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>