The Verge (a Vox Media sister site) has a great scoop about Uber's aggressive effort to recruit drivers from their biggest rival, Lyft. Evidently, the ride-sharing company has been hiring independent contractors with burner phones and credit cards to pose as customers in order to recruit Lyft drivers to work for Uber.
Judging from the comments on the Verge article, a lot of people are upset at Uber's tactics. And some of Uber's actions — particularly their alleged practice of booking rides and then canceling them — may have crossed an ethical line. But, there's nothing wrong with Uber's core strategy of aggressively recruiting Lyft drivers.
Lyft and Uber have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to wage war for the taxi market of the future. It's likely that at least one of the companies' founders and investors will grow extremely wealthy in the process. Yet fast-growing tech companies don't always spread the wealth around to their less-skilled workers.
But when two different tech companies with deep pockets are both drawing from the same pool of workers, that gives the workers some bargaining power. Uber is offering drivers bonuses and other perks to switch to Uber. Lyft may respond by increasing its drivers' pay or other perks to stay loyal to Lyft. And the same thing is happening in the other direction: Lyft is trying to recruit Uber drivers, and Uber management has to figure out how to get its drivers to stay.
The word "poach" often gets thrown around in cases like this, but a minute's thought should make it clear just how misguided this way of thinking is. Drivers are not wildlife on the Lyft reservation being stolen by unscrupulous hunters. They're human beings who have every right to change jobs if a new employer offers them a better deal. And the threat of being "poached" gives drivers more bargaining power with their current employers.
Real poaching is bad for the animals being poached. But for workers, an attempted "poaching" is something to celebrate.