Tech: Uber fires 20 after harassment probe
“The housecleaning at Uber is just getting underway,” said Eric Newcomer in Bloomberg.com. The ride-hailing service fired 20 people this week after an internal investigation into allegations of widespread sexual harassment and discrimination at the company. Uber didn’t say which employees were let go, but some are said to be senior executives. Apart from the firings, 31 employees were placed in counseling or additional training, while seven received written warnings after law firm Perkins Coie reviewed 215 complaints. Uber is also preparing to release the results of a separate, broader investigation into the company’s culture by former Attorney General Eric Holder.
Uber is desperately trying to right the ship amid near-weekly PR disasters, said Reeves Wiedeman in New York magazine. Besides the ongoing harassment probe, Uber faces allegations of intellectual property theft, re velations that it duped regulators with shady software, and a disintegrating reputation with both riders and drivers. To top it all off, the company lost $2.8 billion last year while spending heavily to ward off competitors like Lyft. Just a few months ago, Uber seemed destined to become a Silicon Valley juggernaut like Facebook. But it may yet end up like MySpace, “a company that created a market but was foiled by its own missteps and overtaken by savvier competition.”
Washington: Trump pushes privatizing air traffic control
The Trump administration has formally backed a proposal to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system, said Ashley Halsey III and John Wagner in The Washington Post. The White House released a proposal this week that would spin off more than 30,000 federal workers into a private, nonprofit corporation. The plan also would transfer control towers, routing centers, and tracking systems to the new entity “without charge.” Separating air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration “has been discussed for decades” as a way to streamline government, but has spurred divisions within the airline industry.
Hospitality: Trump Org. plans downmarket hotels
President Trump’s family business announced this week it will open a chain of affordable, patriotically themed hotels, said Steve Eder and Ben Protess in The New York Times. The Trump Organization’s new American Idea hotels will feature vintage Americana in the lobby, like old-fashioned Coca-Cola machines, and “American-made sundries in the rooms.” The first American Idea hotels are set to open in Mississippi, and will be rebranded Holiday Inns and Comfort Inns. The move away from luxury “indicates that the Trumps see dollar signs in the vast support the campaign received from conservative areas well beyond major cities.”
Fashion: J.Crew chief executive departs amid shake-up
Retail legend Mickey Drexler is stepping down as chief executive of J.Crew, said Anna Nicolaou in the Financial Times. The 72-year-old Drexler, “who has been credited with transforming companies like Gap and J.Crew into American staples,” announced his resignation this week. The move comes just two months after the departure of the company’s longtime creative lead, Jenna Lyons, as the brand struggles to stay relevant amid competition from Amazon and fast-fashion stores like H&M. Drexler, who will remain chairman, will be replaced by West Elm president James Brett.
Retail: Amazon discounts for food stamps recipients
Amazon is going after low-income shoppers, “positioning itself as an even greater competitor” to Walmart, said Makeda Easter in the Los Angeles Times. The online retailer announced this week that it’s offering discounts on Amazon Prime memberships for customers receiving government assistance. People with a valid Electronic Benefits Transfer card, used for programs like food stamps, will be able to pay $5.99 a month for Prime, which normally costs $10.99 per month.