If activists’ demands are met just hours before a scheduled protest, does the protest still take place? In San Francisco, the answer is obviously yes.
A Thursday, February 2 protest at the San Francisco headquarters of the rideshare firm Uber had been planned all week to demand that CEO Travis Kalanick step down from Donald Trump’s economic advisory council. After a week in which the #DeleteUber movement had cost the company 200,000 customers, Kalanick did step down just hours before the protest was scheduled to begin.
Labor and social justice groups carried on with the protests anyway, with nearly 50 demonstrators gathering outside the company’s headquarters.
“This is not a sharing economy,” activist Tony Robles told the crowd. “Uber has mistreated its workers and contributed to skyrocketing rents that displace tenants, folks like you and me, and created a new economic model that drives down wages and benefits for working people.”
This being Uber, activists had a laundry list of unethical business practices to complain about at the rally. Though the company’s CEO is no longer on the president’s economic committee, demonstrators still called out Uber’s lax safety practices, snooping on passengers, and legal violations in several communities in which it operates.
“His stepping off the committee may be a P.R. move, but it’s not going to change anything,” San Francisco Taxi Workers board member Mark Gruberg tells SF Weekly. “Uber’s business model worldwide is to break the law,.They go into places they’re not allowed to operate, they set up business with the hope to outrun and outmaneuver the authorities until they get enough political support to be approved. And they’re still operating in a lot of places illegally.”
Alliance for Independent Workers founder Edward Escobar noted that it’s not uncommon for drivers to make far less than the minimum wage. “Sometimes they make negative,” he tells SF Weekly.
“If you’re doing a ride for $1.80, come on,” Escobar says. “Uber Pool? Lyft Lines? I call it Uber Fool and Lyft Lies. And let’s not leave Lyft out of this. That is the Mini Me to the Dr. Evil of Uber.”
Activists are opening yet another front of opposition to Uber, questioning the motives behind the company’s recent $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia. “In Saudi Arabia, the main group that is being oppressed is women,” Code Pink member Michael Stone tells SF Weekly, noting that country’s ban on female drivers represents a cash cow for Uber. “Eighty percent of their clients in Saudi Arabia are women.”
So true to form, Code Pink will be holding another demonstration outside those same San Francisco Uber headquarters at 1 p.m. on Thursday, February 9 to deliver a petition urging Uber to not partner with Saudi Arabia.