Lyft is positioning itself as the ethical alternative to Uber. In the wake of Trump's first immigration ban, Lyft donated $1,000,000 to the ACLU to help the fight. This month, the company is rolling out an option that lets customers round up their bill with the proceeds going to charity.
Their CEO described his company as the "better boyfriend" compared to Uber. In an interview with TIME, he said:
“We’re woke. Our community is woke, and the U.S. population is woke,” Lyft President John Zimmer told Time. “There’s an awakening … Our vote matters, our choice matters, the seat we take matters.”
While Lyft isn't a perfect company, it's not an outright bad company like Uber. You don't see headlines about Lyft execs visiting escort bars in Korea because Lyft is a different kind of company.
But Lyft has had a reputation as a more welcoming, friendly company than "other rideshare programs," as one survey commissioned by the company put it, since the ride-app war began. From early days, Uber and Lyft positioned themselves as different services, even though they provide essentially the same function for customers. Lyft, founded in 2012, was all fist bumps and fluffy pink mustaches, advertising ride-sharing as a way to build community and encouraging drivers to invite riders to sit in the front seat. Uber, launched in 2009, was all black-cars and cool factor, advertising the promise that everyone deserves their own private driver, the type of employee with whom one has little obligation to chitchat.
Lyft's positive image is just that—an image. Substantively, Lyft is lock step with Uber. It supports union busting in Seattle. It worked with Uber to fight the background check rules in Austin, and when they lost, the two companies left the market together in a temper tantrum. Lyft is just as guilty as Uber is, Uber just happens to be extra shitty.
Still, the goodwill toward Lyft persists. This week, the company said this week it’s going to allow riders to round up their bill, and it will donate the extra change to a charity. How sweet.
But it’s not such a neat move for a company that, just six months ago, championed a driver for picking up a passenger while heading to the hospital to give birth. Because that’s the ideal boyfriend: one who wants you to keep working when you’re nine months pregnant, while also not providing maternity leave or basic healthcare. That’s your “woke” Lyft.