It all began on January 28th. Protests were spreading at airports across the country in response to Donald Trump’s refugee ban, and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance announced a 1-hour work stoppage at JFK International Airport to show solidarity with the protesters. Rather than join in, however, Uber did the opposite, turning off surge pricing to and from JFK. This sparked what would become the #DeleteUber Movement
The rationale for Uber’s decision to turn of surge pricing is debatable, but the result was that Uber ended up giving passengers a cheap way out of JFK. This infuriated journalist Dan O’Sullivan, who accused Uber of breaking the strike and urged his followers to #DeleteUber:
Within minutes a movement was formed, and there is good reason to believe the #DeleteUber movement is already having a significant effect on Uber’s bottom line. As The Verge reported, the day after the #DeleteUber movement began, Uber’s top competitor, Lyft, was download from the iPhone App store more times than Uber for the first time in it’s history.
For it’s part, Uber has stated that it had no intention of trying to break the strike at JFK by deleting surge pricing, releasing a statement that they simply wanted customers to know they “could use Uber to get to and from JFK at normal prices.” But that explanation has failed to satisfy critics, many of whom also noted that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick recently decided to join Trump’s Business Advisory Group. In defending his decision to work with President Trump, Kalanick told his employees “We’ll partner with anyone in the world as long they’re about making transportation in cities better, creating job opportunities, making it easier to get around, getting pollution out of the air and traffic off the streets.”
The statement further infuriated activists, who accused Uber of putting money over principles. As O’Sullivan noted: “We’ve all read the statement. It makes clear that short of Armageddon, Uber is sticking with Trump for $$$ and influence.”
Others, such as David Frum inThe Atlantic, describe a more more existential threat that comes when CEO’s like Kalanick participate in the Trump regime: “(if)) success in business or in public service depends on the favor of the president and his ruling clique, then it’s not only American politics that will change.”
But as the #DeleteUber movement continued to pick up steam, Kalanick appeared to change tune, releasing a statement calling the ban “wrong and unjust,” and announcing that Uber had set aside $3 million in legal fees to help drivers who may be separated from their families because of the ban.
But it might be too little too late. Among those celebrities taking part in the #DeleteUber movement are Mark Ruffalo, Carmelo Anthony, Taraji P Henson, Ron Perlman, Janelle Monáe, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and George Takei.
For it’s part, Lyft announced a $1 million donation over a four year period to the ACLU. Perhaps not ironically, billionaire and Trump supporter Carl Icahn made a $100 million investment in Lyft in 2015, and his interests on the Lyft Board of Directors are represented through John Christodoro of Icahn Capital.