Ridesharing app Lyft has conscripted a few lines from a Maya Angelou poem to demonstrate its commitment to BIPOC and underserved communities, while simultaneously spending hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure that its employees, half of whom are POC according to Statista, are fucked when it comes to fair wages, unemployment, and health insurance. Inspiring!
Lyft used cherry-picked lines from Angelou’s poem “On the Pulse of Morning” to launch its LyftUp campaign, which promises to offer “free rides to communities who lack access to food, jobs, and essential services.” The segment features a diverse cast of happy drivers and riders merrily en route to work in cities like Oakland and San Francisco. However, one of the myriad problems with Lyft purporting to have a positive impact on the lives of those living in California, particularly the Bay Area, is that it’s a bald lie. This is evidenced by reports of the company’s drivers sleeping in their cars because as independent contractors, they are saddled with all the costs of maintaining the spotless vehicles featured in the shiny ad, while being paid very little for their actual labor.
It’s even more embarrassing considering that the ad that lifted Angelou’s words is part of a campaign designed to help Lyft weasel out of providing better working conditions. California Assembly Bill 5, which went into effect in January, reclassifies many who work in gig economy jobs as employees, meaning they would be entitled to minimum wage, sick leave, and health insurance, among other labor protections. In order to avoid getting roped into a legal obligation to give a shit about employees, Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and other gig worker-focused companies banded together to pool nearly $200 million for a PR campaign designed to get Californians to vote yes on Proposition 22, which would “exempt app-based transportation and delivery companies from providing employee benefits to certain drivers,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Some of the money also seems earmarked to encourage harassment and doxing of a woman law professor interested in making sure drivers have enough money and medicine, just like the famous poem by the woman professor used in Lyft’s promotional campaign advocates.
In light of the company’s multi-million dollar efforts to dick over its own employees, the LyftUp campaign and its ham-fisted Maya Angelou branding is a pretty transparent attempt by Lyft to combat bad press with a vague message. Additionally, after the lines “Lift up your eyes upon/This day breaking for you” Lyft conveniently ignored an entire stanza that encourages “women, children, men” to avoid being “yoked eternally/to brutishness.”
Guess it’s hard to work those lines into an image rehabilitation faux-philanthropy campaign when yoking employees to brutishness is kind of Lyft’s whole business model.