News & Politics

Uber, Under Fire for 'Breaking' NYC Taxi Strike, Might Help Refugees Most

Twitter screenshot of someone deleting Uber from their phone.

President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending immigration from countries of terror concern caused a huge stir this weekend. The nation saw protests at airports, a lawsuit, and the freeing of two Iraqi refugees temporarily detained at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The events even inspired more tweets than Trump’s inauguration and the “Women’s March” combined. But the news also sparked an outcry among New York taxi drivers, and a misguided attack on their ride-sharing competition, Uber.

But ironically, the very ride-sharing company which liberals protested and called for people to “delete” from their phones might have the best opportunity to actually convince Trump to amend his order.

New York’s taxi drivers launched a strike on Saturday evening. “Our 19,000-member-strong union stands firmly opposed to Donald Trump’s Muslim ban,” read a statement from the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. “As an organization whose membership is largely Muslim, a workforce that’s almost universally immigrant, and a working-class movement that is rooted in the defense of the oppressed, we say no to this inhumane and unconstitutional ban.”

The union argued that executive orders like the one Trump signed Friday (which bans immigration from countries of terror concern, not all Muslims) are an example of “when government programs sanction outright Islamophobia.” Under such conditions, along with “the rhetoric of hate” being “spewed from the bully pulpit, hate crimes increase and drivers suffer greatly. Our Sikh and other non-Muslim brown and black members also suffer from anti-Muslim violence.”

https://twitter.com/EricRMurphy/status/825538075149336576

The union also called on “ALL DRIVERS! YELLOW, UBER, EVERYONE” to “not pick up at JFK Airport tonight, Saturday January 28th, from 6pm to 7pm.”

CALLING ALL DRIVERS: Protest against the unconstitutional and inhumane #MuslimBan continues. Meet at 2 PM today, Sunday, Jan 29 at Broadway & Beaver in Manhattan for the #NoBanNoWall march. Spread the word!

Posted by NY Taxi Workers Alliance on Sunday, January 29, 2017

While taxi drivers started to strike, the ride-sharing service Uber moved in to pick up the slack. Travelers still needed rides from the airport, so Uber took the extraordinary step of dropping “surge pricing.”

https://twitter.com/Uber_NYC/status/825502908926066688

Liberals did not take kindly to this.

 

This led angry liberals to launch a Twitter hashtag, “#deleteUber.” They argued that Uber was trying to derail the strike, and called for a boycott of the allegedly bigoted company.

https://twitter.com/NativeApprops/status/825810219104075776

Around the same time, Logan Green, co-founder and CEO of Lyft, Uber’s primary ride-sharing competitor, announced that his company would donate $1 billion to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one of the George Soros-funded groups suing on behalf of the two Iraqi refugees detained at JFK.

“Lyft has worked hard to create an inclusive, diverse and conscientious community where all our drivers and passengers feel welcome,” Green tweeted. “Trump’s immigration ban is antithetical to both Lyft’s and our nation’s core values,” he added. “We are donating $1,000,000 over the next four years to the ACLU to defend our constitution.”

The ACLU reported receiving $10 million and 150,000 new members over the weekend, according to Yahoo News.

Some celebrities, such as Star Trek actor George Takei, contrasted the two ride-sharing companies. “Lyft donates $1mil to ACLU while Uber doubles down on its support for Trump,” Takei tweeted, adding the hashtag #DeleteUber.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has indeed come under fire for his connections with the president. Kalanick was named one of 19 executives who will advise Trump on economic issues, joining Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger.

Nevertheless, Uber did come out with a statement against Trump’s immigration order. In a letter to his team, Kalanick announced the company will compensate workers stuck overseas as a result of the order for three months.

“Our People Ops team has already reached out to the dozen or so employees who we know are affected: for example, those who live and work in the U.S., are legal residents but not naturalized citizens who will not be able to get back into the country if they are traveling outside of the U.S. now or anytime in the next 90 days,” Kalanick said. “Anyone who believes that this order could impact them should contact our immigration team immediately.”

Kalanick argued that the order “also affects thousands of drivers who use Uber and come from the listed countries, many of whom take long breaks to go back home and see their extended family.” He promised workers that “we are working out a process to identify these drivers and compensate them pro bono during the next three months to mitigate some of the financial stress and complications with supporting their families and putting food on the table.”

Kalanick attacked the so-called “Muslim ban” saying that it “will impact many innocent people,” and promised that he will raise the issue “this coming Friday when I go to Washington for President Trump’s first business advisory group meeting.”

While Uber came under fire for not adhering to the strike, the actions Kalanick has promised to take will arguably have a greater impact than that symbolic strike — and they won’t leave people without rides from the airport! The New York taxi drivers had a point in making their statement, and indeed taxi and ride-share drivers are most likely to be mistreated under Trump’s temporary immigration ban. But refusing to drive passengers from the airport seems an odd way of showing solidarity with people held up in their efforts to travel.

In the end, Kalanick’s relationship with Trump may give him the best opportunity to effect the necessary changes to this immigration order. Perhaps liberals should consider that before they boycott his company.