January 31 2017
I usually leave Uber--and that revulsion that the company has inspired among liberals--in the capable hands of my colleague Patrice Onwuka.
But one thing has always fascinated me: The very same politically correct progressives who want to regulate the pants off of Uber regularly use Uber because it's so darned hip to touch an app on your smartphone and have a car suddenly appear out of the blue with the driver acting like your private chauffeur. Hence St. Louis novelist/taxi-driver Umar Lee wrote this for the Huffington Post in 2014:
To call a spade a spade, Lyft and Uber aren’t coming to serve good ol’ St. Louis Hoosiers or North St. Louis. Nope, they are coming by invitation and for the hipster population (and to a lesser extent business people and college students). Hence they kicked off at Nebula (the center of hipster thought in St. Louis).
So, now, let me use this time to call out hipsters and ask: What kind of a society do you want to live in? Do you favor the right-wing economics of the GOP or do you favor a more humane and just society?
Well, it turns out that there actually may be something that will rile up liberals enough to break their dependency on the Capitalist Menace: President Donald J. Trump. Or rather, Trump's new moratorium on visas for travelers from seven countries associated with Islamic terrorism.
Protesting the ban, New York city's taxi-drivers union decided to go on strike by refusing to pick up or deposit passengers at the city's JFK Airport servicing international flights. It wasn't much of a strike--just one hour on Jan. 25--but what the hay? It was solidarity.
Uber, however, declined to participate in this grand gesture, which meant that Uber and its rival, Lyft, scooped up all those fares.
Uh-oh! The taxi drivers' union, with help from the media, promptly launched a #DeleteUber boycott of the company. Esquire magazine helpfully provided an article outlining how hitherto users of Uber could rid their phones of the company's account for good. Sure enough good progressives everywhere were making the Uber app disappear.
Then Lyft, ever trailing competitively in Uber's wake, got into the act, pledging to donate $1 million in atonement for its JFK misdeeds to the ACLU fight the immigration ban in court. The message: Uber bad, Lyft good. Airbnb chimed in with an offer of free rooms for claimed refugees.
Well! Uber didn't want to lose that hipster business, so it quickly did an about-face:
CEO Travis Kalanick tweeted Sunday afternoon that Trump’s travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries “is against everything Uber stands for.” He said the ban affects thousands of Uber drivers.
Kalanick said Uber would compensate drivers for lost earnings if they’re unable to work because of the ban. Uber also set up a $3 million legal defense fund for the “wrong and unjust” ban.
So now the progressive hipsters, freed from their obligation to boycott Uber, can get back to work trying to regulate the pants off of Uber.