By Sara Karlovitch
On Jan. 28, Uber found itself in the middle of a public relations nightmare. Earlier that day, protesters gathered outside of JFK International Airport and airports around the country to protest President Trump’s executive order barring immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 120 days. In a show of solidarity, members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance stopped servicing JFK for an hour. Uber, however, did not. Many saw this as Uber trying to profit off the protests.
The #deleteuber trend took off on Twitter last Saturday and over 200,000 customers have since canceled their accounts, according to a New York Times report. To make matters worse, Lyft, Uber’s most direct competition, pounced on the opportunity. They quickly condemned the administration’s actions and announced plans for a million dollar donation to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) over the course of four years, according to an email they sent out to customers.
This was not the only source of contention surrounding Uber over the last week and a half. Company CEO Travis Kalanick decided to leave his position on Trumps economic advisory council a few days after people started protesting Uber. He also promised to help compensate all employees affected by the ban for 90 days.
In the Age of Trump, politically charged consumerism is the new normal. Political Consumerism is “turning the market into a site for politics and ethics, as consumer choices reflect personal attitudes and purchases are informed by ethical or political assessment of business and government practice,” as defined by ethicalconsumer.org. Shoppers are no longer looking for just a product, they are looking for a message.
Starbucks has also joined the trend by promising to hire 10,000 refugees within five years. CEO Howard Schultz said they would first focus their efforts on translators who helped the U.S. in combat zones.
The #grabyourwallet campaign calls for consumers to boycott retailers that sell Ivanka Trump’s clothing line or Donald Trump merchandise. In the last week, both Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus have dropped Ivanka Trump’s collection, but have not specifically said it was in response to the campaign.
In November, Nordstrom responded to a customer on Twitter who called for the company to stop carrying Ivanka Trump’s collection.
“We hope that offering a vendor’s products isn’t misunderstood as us taking a political position; we’re not,” Nordstrom tweeted in response. “We recognize our customers can make choices about what they purchase based on personal views & we’ll continue to give them options.”
Political Consumerism is used as a relatively easy way to force action. With a simple hashtag, activists can have an entire movement going with just a tweet. In our hyper-politicized world, everything has become a political statement. From how we catch a ride to what coffee we drink all depends on which way we leen and who we vote for. The products we use have become a way to widen the political chasm between right and left.
Though holding the minority of seats in congress, the left has found their voice. The Trump presidency has reawakened the progressive movement after eight years of complacency under Obama. The organization Run For Something, a new group which tries to help liberals to run for office, has received over 1,000 sign ups since the executive order was issued.
Democrats are fighting fire with fire, trying to reclaim the country they lost so suddenly and unexpectedly. The #deleteuber and #grabyourwallet campaigns are only the beginning of a much larger liberal revolution.
Featured Photo Credit: As the protest drew further down Pennsylvania Avenue, more and more protesters eyes began to be caught by the golden letters and American flags covering 1100 Pennsylvania Ave NW. A few years back this building would be known as the Old Post Office Building. Today: The Trump International Hotel. (Joe Duffy/Bloc Photographer)
Sara Karlovitch is a freshman journalism and government and politics major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.