Uber, Lyft responses to Trump protest at JFK airport slammed by taxi union

The yellow cab and ride-hail industries never exactly got along, but protests of Trump’s refugee ban have managed to expand the divide.

Capitalizing the virility of the hashtag #DeleteUber, the union representing thousands of taxi drivers lashed out at both Uber and Lyft on Monday for failing to acknowledge an hourlong driver strike the union ordered Saturday in response to President Donald Trump’s refugee ban.

“Make no mistake, the corporations leading the gig economy and the sharing economy will never be a part of the resistance,” the union, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said in a statement issued Monday. “Backed by billions of dollars in Wall Street funding, these companies, including Uber and Lyft, are upending labor standards for which workers have spent centuries fighting.”

Tweets from users deleting Uber from their smartphones began circulating social media on Saturday after Uber had announced through Twitter that it would be disabling surge pricing at Kennedy Airport. Thousands of people were there rallying there against Trump’s recent executive order that blocked the entry into the United States from citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Uber’s tweet was sent at 7:36 p.m., nearly a half-hour after the taxi strike that took place between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Social media users viewed the announcement as an attempt to undermine the taxi drivers’ protests. The company has insisted that the announcement has been misinterpreted. Uber’s move was largely proactive; the company is routinely attacked for its surge pricing model when it seems to gouge riders at inopportune times.

But the fact that Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, is a member President Trump’s economic advisory group (along with Tesla’s Elon Musk and many other leaders from companies like General Motors, Pepsi and Disney) only focused the target for outraged Trump opponents. And the NYTWA, a taxi union that has criticized the company over its treatment of drivers, dug in.

Kalanick attempted to save face on Saturday by reasoning in a Facebook post that Uber “partner(s) around the world optimistically in the belief that by speaking up and engaging we can make a difference.” He also announced that Uber would be working out a plan to provide financial compensation for Uber drivers who might be stuck in other countries due to the ban.

As backlash continued on Sunday, Kalanick posted another message on Facebook outlining the plan. He said the company will create a $3 million legal defense fund to help drivers with immigration and translation services and provide 24-hour legal support for drivers attempting to re-enter the country.

“At Uber we’ve always believed in standing up for what’s right,” Kalanick said. “Today we need your help supporting drivers who may be impacted by the President’s unjust immigration ban.”

Everyone copes with user outrage differently. At Lyft, the company’s co-founders seized the opportunity on Saturday to announce that they would donate $1 million to the ACLU over the next four years.

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