Reports indicate that the billion-dollar ride sharing service that boasts upwards of 40 million riders a month may have lost its way in an industry that it has dominated since its inception in 2009.
According to Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto, “companies that care about only profit and not societal benefit will see their business models hurt eventually.”
Uber is, in his opinion, one such company.
This rebuff of the mega-company comes via a Politico report that indicates Uber’s recent introduction of their Advanced Technologies Center in the Steel City hasn’t gone over too well with officials. Reportedly, Peduto’s administration has both asked for Uber’s help in obtaining a $50 million “Smart Cities” federal grant and issued suggestions for “providing senior citizens with free rides to doctors’ appointments” in recent months. The Uber company, however, has, in turn, completely declined to help the city in securing federal finances, and scoffed at the mayor’s idea of providing the elderly with free rides. Additionally, sources indicate that the corporation has also attempted to plot state lawmakers against Peduto with the intention of finding an alternate way to roll out its pilot program in Pittsburgh. When asked if he had ever attempted to contact Uber CEO Travis Kalanick himself for support, Peduto told Politico that he had, via text.
The outcome? No response.
Peduto stated that the company’s recent actions in no way resemble a healthy, symbiotic partnership. In fact, he even went so far as to suggest that the company founded by Kalanick may just be using Pittsburgh for what it can get out of the city.
“Uber wanted to use our public right-of-ways and didn’t want to be engaged with the city when it needed something.”
Uber’s billionaire owner Travis Kalanick has been the subject of much controversy ever since the company began its rapid ascension to the top of the ride-sharing food chain in recent years. Just a few weeks ago, the 40-year-old was recorded on a driver’s DashCam berating the employee for “not taking responsibility.” His verbal assault came after the driver spoke to him about recent pay cuts.
“Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own [expletive].”
Additionally, at least two female employees in Uber’s corporate office have made claims of sexual harassment regarding coworkers. One woman, an engineer named Susan Fowler, indicated that she actually made several claims regarding unwanted sexual advances from a male superior – all of which were ignored by Kalanick’s staff. The other woman, a former senior vice president in the company’s engineering department, reportedly went so far as to resign over her claims of sexual harassment. Kalanick later apologized for negligence on his part and attempted to rectify the problems – but the sour taste of the company’s inaction remains on the tongues of several of the corporation’s critics.
According to some, the Uber brand relies solely on the work of those employees it seems to mistreat regularly- and that paradox may eventually bring the company’s reign to a screeching halt. Still, others think the way Uber seems to continue to excel even with such a reputation among its employees only illustrates the brashness of most tech companies in today’s market.
According to a study by Harvard University, less than half of board members for companies such as Uber traditionally speak up against company wrongdoing. Experts contend that it has everything to do with the fact that most of the CEOs of such companies hold the majority financial stake in their corporations. Translation? CEOs and their companies may be able to get away with whatever they want simply because the people that have any sort of power over them value their jobs too much. Additionally, some board members may see that, as long as the bottom line is being met and the company is continuing to grow, there really is nothing wrong with the culture.
Regardless of the reasons behind why companies may function in certain ways, people like Mayor Bill Peduto expect more from a corporation that seems to have so much to offer the people.
Only time will tell if Uber will continue to dominate the market despite the controversies surrounding it.
[Featured Image by David Ramos/Stringer/AP Images]