The $70 Billion internet taxi company ‘Uber’ made headlines across the world last week as multiple issues imploded in CEO Travis Kalanick’s face. From a senior board member’s sexist remarks, to several sexual harassment claims worldwide and then finally a slew of workers being laid off has resulted in the CEO taking an indefinite ‘leave from office’ to focus on his personal growth.
A simple Google search reveals the toxic environment of sexual misconduct that has been a part of the company since its inception. Be it the ‘casual’ sexism female co-workers face at the office or the horrific rape incident of a female customer in India by an Uber driver, the company has been under constant heat. The problematic policies that are ingrained in Uber don’t just stop at sexism and harassment.
CEO Kalanick, as well as his new economic advisory board, was ready to support the controversial Muslim Ban proposed by the US President Donald Trump and only backtracked when there were protests by customers. As news of Donald Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries spread, protests sprang up at airports across the US. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance avoided John F Kennedy International Airport as a strike move but Uber undermined this action by its pricing actions. This led to hundreds of thousands of people deleting the Uber app and the #DeleteUber hash-tag raged across social media.
Contrastingly, the UAE based competitor, ‘Careem’ is vehemently showing its support for Muslims, having launched its services in Palestine, expanding its footprint to 12 countries across the MENA region and Pakistan. The Ramallah launch in Palestine was a particularly courageous step from Careem, given the country’s struggles with terrorism, blockage and political and economic hardship. Hopefully, Careem can overcome these challenges and help make life better for Palestinians who have been facing tremendous prejudice and in many cases are branded as Muslim extremists.
Business practices apart, there is something rotten at the core. Kalanick’s video of yelling at an UberX driver went viral and highlighted the toxic and bully-like attitude of its founder and CEO. Uber was also caught dodging law enforcement agencies with an inbuilt program ‘Greyball’ which identified if the car is being called by a government official.
Whether Uber can emerge from the hole that has been dug by their anti-Muslim, sexist and classist policies is a question that is yet to be answered.