Rival ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber and their years-long fight for market share have taken center stage thanks to our country’s current political climate.
In his first week in office, President Trump signed a number of executive orders, the most inflammatory thus far, an order on immigration – referred to by many as the “Muslim ban.”
Lyft, Uber, and a number of other tech companies have made public statements and taken a stance. For Uber, however, it might have come a little too late. As political action becomes increasingly necessary and social responsibility required, it’s clear that American companies and their values are now subject to be weighed on Lady Justices’ scale.
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.
A great deal of back and forth has ensued since the initial protest at JFK. Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, has defended the timing of the tweet, claiming that it was sent out after the strike ended. Kalanick then sent out an email to Uber staff defending his position to serve on Trump’s economic advisory council (this included Kalanick name dropping a number of other CEO’s of major companies that also serve on the board). However soon after, Kalanick released a statement via his Facebook page pledging $3 million to support drivers affected by the ban.
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.”
The tech community in large is also rejecting the President’s executive order; Facebook, Etsy, Microsoft, Google, Airbnb, Salesforce, Apple, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Netflix, Slack, and many more have made public statement and addressed their employees in the last few days– some of whom have been affected by the ban.
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.