Uber has recently come under fire for claims of its misogynistic and hostile workplace culture. The fallout resulted in Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, resigning. The controversy began in February, when a former employee of the ride hailing company levied accusations that complaints of her sexual harassment had gone unaddressed by corporate management. After one woman’s voice began to be heard, current and former employees subsequently voiced similar accusations. Due to Uber’s hyper-competitive, win-at-all-costs workplace environment, top performing superiors reportedly felt comfortable lobbing homophobic and misogynistic slurs as well as physical threats at under-performing subordinates. The controversy resulted in Uber deciding that improved workplace oversight, a personnel overhaul, and a changing of company values were needed. I like to think I played a part.
In the Fall of 2016, I took a $17 Uber ride with an expired credit card. Uber management contacted me and told me that if I wanted to use their service again, I’d have to pay the unpaid balance. Although bitter, I was ready to do so – that was until I realized that there is an almost identical app based transportation service that I didn’t owe money to. That service is known as Lyft. I never took Uber again. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was making a stand against corporate corruption and female inequality in the workplace. I also saved $17.
I have since committed myself fully to Lyft, vehemently refusing to support a company that abuses its workers. I have instead given money to a corporation that respects its employees, and one that I’m not in debt to. I was called a “scumbag” and a “cheapskate” by friends and coworkers, just as many social justice warriors are by their contemporaries. In order to enact real social change, it’s important to tune the noise out and do what feels right. I now feel vindicated knowing that I made the right decision, refusing to fund a corporation steeped in misogyny. I also didn’t have to take the bus home and received a free ride that was valued at $17.
Did Uber’s higher-ups see the 17 missing dollars from their company coffer and recognize it as a sign of protest against their workplace malpractice? I don’t know, that’s not for me to decide. It’s for the historians. Social change can come from various places. Sometimes it’s from an innate sense of goodness. Sometimes it comes from not wanting to pay surge pricing. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that real change is possible, and that I still have those $17.