One could argue that Donald Trump’s presidency has made almost every decision by citizens a political one. The choice between two tech “disruptors” in the taxi industry has become a source of political debate.
After Trump signed the executive order to ban traveling from seven majority-Muslim countries, activists took to the streets to protest. The protest ended up directly at airports around the country where folks were being detained for hours or simply sent back to where they had just come from. John F. Kennedy Airport was ground zero for the protests in New York City.
On Saturday evening, in a show of solidarity with those held at airports because of Trump’s ban, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance called for a temporary halt on rides heading to JFK.
“Our 19,000-member-strong union stands firmly opposed to Donald Trump’s Muslim ban. 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,” read the New York Taxi Workers Alliance’s statement on Facebook.
On Twitter, in response, the page for Uber NYC said that surge was turned off at JFK and it would result in longer wait times. Activists and others called out Twitter for allegedly trying to break the taxi strike, and “#deleteUber” became a trending topic on social media with people taking screenshots of taking the app off their smartphones.
According to CNNMoney, at an all-hands-on-deck meeting, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told staff that he wasn’t trying to break the taxi strike.
“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,” Kalanick reportedly told employees. “It’s about the leaders we have to work with around the world, not just here in the United States but everywhere. And being optimistic—asking can we make urban mobility better?”
In response to the Uber backlash, one of their competitors, Lyft, announced that it would donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is currently fighting Trump’s ban in court. The downloads for Lyft have gone up significantly since Saturday.
But one of Lyft’s early investors, Carl Icahn, was appointed by Trump to be a special adviser on regulation two months ago. Icahn was an early supporter of Trump during the presidential campaign, stating that Trump would be better for the economy than Hillary Clinton.
According to CNBC, Icahn invested $100 million into Lyft, and his interests are represented on the board of directors through Icahn Capital’s John Christodoro.
Although the focus remains on Uber, for now, Kalanick is trying to make things right for his (former) customers.
After the dust settled, Kalanick continued to state that he wasn’t trying to break the strike and that he opposed Trump’s travel ban. In an open letter signed by him and 400 local founders, CEOs and investors in New York’s tech community, the group expressed their objection to Trump’s executive order on immigration from his selected majority-Muslim countries.
“We should be doing everything in our power to attract these entrepreneurs to the United States. Yet when we close the door to immigrants from certain countries, not to mention to refugees, we are telling all immigrants that they are not welcome here,” read the letter. “We are confident that we can achieve security without threatening the inclusivity and diversity at the heart of New York City—and the United States.”
Other signatures on the letter included Blue Apron CEO Matt Salzberg. Buzzfeed’s Jonah Peretti and executives from Lyft, Airbnb and Slack.