Is the Ethical Choice to Delete the Uber App?

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Brooke Noonan

Finding things that make me feel, then writing about them.

Over the past couple of weeks, you may have seen an article circulating around called Here’s Why All Your Friends Are Deleting Their Uber Accounts.

If you read it, you saw the author raise some huge red flags about Uber: longer wait times for Uber passengers with “African American sounding names”, dramatically lower wages for drivers than Uber claims to pay , and of course what we all came here for, Uber’s gross exploitation of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance strike following Trump’s announcement of the immigration ban.

(Not mentioned in the article but also important: Uber’s attempt to distance itself from multiple cases of sexual assaults perpetrated by drivers.)

The author then makes a call to action for all of us to delete Uber from our phones. And guess what? People did it. Shortly after the immigration ban strikes, the hashtag #deleteuber erupted on social media outlets and reportedly led to 200,000 people to delete their accounts.

But then…

Uber

Sigh.

The article gratuitously ends with this nod to Lyft, Uber’s primary competitor. Listen, if the megacorps of the world want to offhandedly donate $1 million to the ACLU, I’m not complaining. But let’s not forgot that – yep – Lyft is a business. And as S.E. Smith put it beautifully in this Bitch Media article (which I highly recommend):

…as we look at how the tech industry is responding to Trump, we need to have a moment of real talk, because it is important to remember two things:

  1. The tech industry is a business
  2. Businesses are not your friends

Lyft has a strong motive here, and it’s not to end Trump’s ban. That’s not to say that individuals at Lyft don’t believe in the words of this statement – I’m sure there are as many good-hearted, compassionate, progressive people working at Lyft as at any other tech company. But the motive for Lyft, the company, is pretty obvious. Their main competitor made a bad publicity move, and it would have been unwise for Lyft not to exploit it.

And let’s not forget that Lyft has its problems too. If you clicked on that article above about racial discrimination against Uber passengers (link for the lazy), you saw that the study actually refers to both Uber and Lyft. Not only that, but Lyft was actually found to have higher rates of discrimination thanks to a UI feature that allows the driver to see the picture, and thereby race, of a passenger before picking them up.

Lyft also recently faced heat over several class action lawsuits involving drivers demanding fair compensation and benefits. Lyft settled one such suit in California for $27 million – only 17 percent of what the drivers requested based off IRS mileage reimbursement rates and data provided by Lyft.

Now, let’s go back to Lyft’s immigration statement.

Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is both antithetical to both Lyft’s and our nation’s core values.

Okay, but what about providing people of those very populations with a living wage and benefits? What about offering those people fair compensation and opportunities for advancement?

We will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community.

What about the issues of poverty and labor exploitation? What about protecting drivers under state labor laws including minimum wages, worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance and collective bargaining – protections that have been offered in the United States for almost a century?

We stand with you, and are donating $1,000,000 over the next four years to the ACLU to defend our constitution.

I’m having a hard time understanding who “you” is here. Does “you” include the drivers who are currently battling Lyft in the courts for reasonable pay? If $1,000,000 is readily available for this ostensibly ethical statement, why is paying fair wages so far off the table?

I can understand the temptation to praise Lyft. In this day and age, any public statement that aligns with common sense is a relief to see. However, it pains me to hear that the #deleteuber trend has thrown Lyft into the top 10 on Apple’s App store virtually overnight.

By all means, delete Uber. But if you are doing it in the name of conscious consumption, then delete Lyft too. If you need to keep one of them, go for it, but don’t do it under the pretense of good ethics.

The fact is: it’s hard to make ethical buying choices these days. Uber vs. Lyft seems like a classic case of picking the lesser of two evils. But remember that the third option – to pick neither – does exist for many of us. Some areas of the country have great alternatives if you take the time to look (like these in Seattle). Also, walking and public transportation are options for those of us with the means and privilege to use them.

It’s not easy, but we can all be conscious consumers by taking a hard look at who we are supporting with our money and our social media platforms. Keep a critical eye open and, as always, stay vigilant.

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