In light of the recent sexual harassment claims against the rideshare company Uber by former employee Susan Fowler, two local activists offered free rides to users who agreed to delete their Uber accounts.
Thousands of riders uninstalled the app and publicly encouraged others to do the same under the #DeleteUber campaign that went viral earlier this month following news of Uber’s ties to the Trump administration.
On President’s Day, Michael Morgenstern, a filmmaker who shoots commercials for tech companies and Ka-Ping Yee, a software engineer, took the hashtag to the streets of the Mission District and beyond by offering free rides to strangers who, like them, were willing to delete the app off their phones for good.
“We decided it was the exact same as posting on Facebook, ‘I deleted Uber. You should delete Uber too.’ We wanted to show that we really meant it,” said Morgenstern.
With laminated posters that read #Women’sRights and #Worker’sRights plastered in the rear windows of Morgenstern’s car, their impromptu cabbing began in the Mission and took them all around the city.
Despite an admitted initial “awkwardness” in asking complete strangers to take a stand against sexism by giving up what is for some a daily convenience, the pair’s advocacy was met with general support.
“It started some pretty great conversations. At first I was nervous about asking strangers if they wanted a ride, it felt a little awkward,” said Yee. “The people we actually picked up who deleted their accounts in front of us were people who were already thinking about deleting Uber, who were not too happy with [the company].”
“This created an opportunity to talk about it and to talk about sexism in the tech industry. It gave them that last nudge to follow through,” said Yee.
One woman who hopped into Morgenstern’s backseat said she’s had friends in tech who were harassed at the workplace and told to “brush it off.” Another man the pair picked up at 22nd and Mission streets said that he would rather support “companies that I can stand behind.”
Yee said that as a member of the tech industry he often feels that his values are not represented.
“I just think we need to hold my industry to a higher standard as a member of this industry I’m not happy with a lot of the typical behavior that we see in it,” he said.
Morgenstern said he briefly wondered if the action would hurt his ability to retain commercial clients, but then decided that speaking out against inequality took precedence.
“I want to make videos for people who are acting responsibly,” he said.
Both Yee and Morgenstern said they are hoping that their action will inspire others to not only discontinue using the service, but that given the political climate, it will serve to remind their community members of their personal power to make a change.
“I think its important for us to be using that power to protect the rights of people who don’t have them,” said Morgenstern, adding in reference to the #DeleteUber social media campaign: “I think this stuff works if we actually do it. That was the point of our video, to say, ‘Lets not just talk about holding companies accountable, let’s actually do it.’”