On Saturday evening, President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning citizens from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the US for at least the next 90 days.
In response, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance called for drivers to avoid John F. Kennedy International Airport between 6 and 7pm Eastern time on Saturday.
Uber took a different approach, however, and announced via its Twitter feed that surge pricing had been turned off at JFK, meaning that travel to and from the airport would be cheaper.
Although, the tweet was sent out around 30 minutes after the strike had been scheduled to end, the move was quickly interpreted as an attempt by Uber to break the strike.
“We’re sorry for any confusion about our earlier tweet—it was not meant to break up any strike,” read a statement from Uber. “We wanted people to know they could use Uber to get to and from JFK at normal prices, especially tonight.”
Last tweet not meant to break strike. Our CEO’s statement opposing travel ban and compensating those impacted: https://t.co/joWvPvux9J
— Uber NYC (@Uber_NYC) January 29, 2017
While Uber claims its actions were benevolent and that it was attempting to assist riders on their way to and from the protest scene, the question of why Uber didn’t ask its drivers to join the protest has not yet been answered.
Uber didn’t respond to Factor at the time of going to press.
Twitter users reacted angrily to Uber’s decision with many people supporting the #DeleteUber hashtag and claiming that they would be using rival service Lyft from now on.
The whole saga represents a PR victory for Lyft who, according to the Washington Post, also paused its surge pricing and continued to operate, but rather than publicising that instead announced that “the immigration ban was antithetical to Lyft’s core values, and the company would be donating $1 million over four years to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Lyft donates $1mil to ACLU while Uber doubles down on its support for Trump. #DeleteUber
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) January 29, 2017
Uber and it’s CEO and co-founder, Travis Kalanick, were prompted to release as statement, which reassured customers that it is working out a process to identify affected drivers so that they can be compensated while the ban is in effect to help mitigate some of the financial stress.
Uber announced that it would establish a $3 million fund to assist drivers affected by the ban.
Along with a number of other prominent CEOs, including Tesla’s Elon Musk, Kalanick sits on President Trump’s economic advisory group.
The association hasn’t gone unnoticed by Uber’s customers, and Kalanick was also forced to defend his decision to advise Trump.
“I understand that many people internally and externally may not agree with that decision, and that’s OK,” said Kalanick. “It’s the magic of living in America that people are free to disagree. But whatever your view please know that I’ve always believed in principled confrontation and just change; and have never shied away (maybe to my detriment) from fighting for what’s right.”
Update: Uber has told Factor, “drivers who use the app are independent and were completely free to participate if they wanted.”
Featured image courtesy of Jirapong Manustrong / Shutterstock, Inc.