On the Saturday following the order, protests ensued at New York’s JFK airport. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance called for a one hour strike “to stand in solidarity with the thousands protesting the inhumane and unconstitutional Muslim Ban.”
In the midst of the protests, Uber NYC sent out a tweet informing customers that surge pricing had been turned off at JFK. This led customers to believe that Uber was looking to profit during the strike — undercutting New York City’s taxi industry, it’s drivers, and the statement they intended to make.
A number of social media savvy citizens immediately called Uber out, prompting #DeleteUber to sweep social media. This spurred more than 200,000 Uber users to delete their accounts with the ride-share leader.
In the midst of Uber’s public meltdown, Lyft quickly released a short but powerful statement. Standing up for their community values and against the ban, the #2 ride-share company pledged to donate $1 million dollars to the ACLU over the next four year to “defend our constitution.” This move propelled Lyft into the top 10 downloaded apps in the App Store, surpassing Uber for the first time ever.
The birth and explosive growth of the internet and social media have greatly influenced consumer spending choices. Transparency in business is no longer an option, but a requirement. It’s now more important than ever for company values to align with consumer values; for companies to stand with the diverse population of Americans who are buying the products they sell. As evident in this situation, CEOs, board members, and funders are being called to task; and not only by the general public but by their employees also.
Throughout the week, Uber employees put pressure on Kalanick to explain his involvement in the President’s economic advisory council. After some back and forth, and a 25-page Google doc entitled “Letters to Travis,” Kalanick formally stepped down from his position on the council.
A number of companies who value the diverse makeup of our country, and their workforce, have also spoken out to denounce the President’s new policy. In an email to employees, Mark Parker, CEO of Nike (who has struggled with negative PR in the past around working conditions in their factories) stated that “Nike stands together against bigotry and any form of discrimination.”
Did Uber’s blunder affect their business long term? Has Lyft’s stand against discrimination helped to close the gap between the two companies? Or does all of the back and forth make room for a new ride share service like Juno to enter the market?
— BΛD HΛBITS. (@BlvckNostalgia) January 30, 2017
Moving forward in a divided America will require our favorite companies and business leaders to do more than think about the bottom line. It’s time for the American business communities operating within the sharing-economy to truly invest in their biggest resource; the American people.