Following #DeleteUber Movement, CEO Backs Out of Business Advisory Council


Social Media Week

Five days after the #DeleteUber movement spread across social media, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has stepped down from the President’s economic council.

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Uber just did a 180.

When protests against President Trump’s travel ban began last week, thousands of people swarmed New York’s JFK airport to demonstrate. Adding to the chaos was a self-imposed strike by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, in which drivers agreed to refuse pickups at the airport between 6 and 7 p.m.

At the same time, Uber’s New York social media team tweeted that its drivers would continue to service the airport—and even do so without surge pricing. The tweet received dozens of angry responses as people accused the company for being “scabs,” a term for those who continue to work amid a strike.

It took nearly 24 hours for Uber to release a formal statement. In that response, the company assured riders that their intention was not to break the strike or demonstrate support for the President’s executive order.

Rather, a spokesperson for Uber told Fortune that the decision was made “specifically to avoid profiting off the increased demand,” and likened the decision to similar ones made during other times of crisis and natural disasters. Moreover, Uber pledged to financially compensate employees impacted by the executive order. But for many people, the response was too little too late.

Five days later, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick contacted President Trump to formally step down from his business advisory council, which held its first meeting this week. In a memo to Uber employees, Kalanick explained that his involvement on the economic council was never intended to be an endorsement of President Trump’s policies, although he had previously indicated he would be open to “working with” the administration.

According to social media tracking company Keyhole, the #DeleteUber hashtag had only received about 700 mentions between Saturday, Jan. 28 and Sunday, Jan. 29; however, many of the mentions came from high profile celebrities and influencers—like George Takei—who helped generate more than 3.8 million impressions of the hashtag.

In parallel to the movement to #DeleteUber, rival Lyft struck early by pledging to donate $1 million to the ACLU over the next four years. (By the way, spurred by social media buzz and donation-matching, the ACLU has raised an unprecedented $24 million since Jan. 28.) In a similar move, AirBnB offered free housing to those impacted by the immigration ban.

Afdhel Aziz, co-author of the book “Good Is the New Cool: How to Market Like You Give a Damn” and founder of Conspiracy of Love, says we’ve reached an age where consumers are voting with their wallets.

“To quote the writer Anne Lappe, today’s consumers feel like ‘every dollar they spend is a vote for the kind of world they want,'” he said. “Brands need to start showing how their values are manifested not just through their advertising but also via their actions: a principle we articulate in our book as ‘backing up the promise with the proof.'”

While it’s not clear how many Uber accounts have been deleted thus far, the company stands to take a significant hit if the movement spreads to the major cities that comprise the lion’s share of its revenue. According to leaked documents obtained by Business Insider in 2014, the company’s top markets are New York, San Francisco, LA and Chicago.

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Image Credit: Quartz



Katie Perry

Contributor, Social Media Week

Katie Perry is a marketing & content strategist and contributor to SMW News, a leading news platform covering startups, tech, brands and the future of work. You can follow Katie on Twitter at @katieeperry.



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