Protests erupted in all forms when Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travel from seven Muslim–majority countries. Among those who expressed that anger were the 19,000 members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which called for an hour–long strike stopping all taxi rides to John F. Kennedy International Airport in order to support those being held there as a result of the order.
Uber, however, chose not to partake. Then, 30 minutes after the strike ended, Uber announced via Twitter that it had turned off surge pricing at JFK airport.
#DeleteUber appeared on Twitter soon after, as a response to Uber apparently taking advantage of the strike while offering people an easy way out of the chaos and protests. Uber has been the subject of scrutiny and public criticism in the past, and outrage accumulated further as people pointed to CEO Travis Kalanick’s role on the President’s economic advisory council.
Lyft, Uber’s biggest competitor, joined in the criticism. Then, Lyft pledged to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which recently filed a class action suit on behalf of two detainees at JFK. #DeleteUber picked up steam, and more people began to remove their app and announce their new allegiance to Lyft.
Penn student Gena Basha (C '18), an Under the Button staffer, was among the many who joined in the #DeleteUber campaign, soon after seeing it on Twitter.
“There’s a whole bunch of reasons why people are upset, like the things that were happening at JFK, and the CEO being on board with the economic team,” she explains. “I deleted the app in favor of Lyft more so than [an act] against Uber. I have kind of mixed feelings about where Uber stands itself and how it dealt with the things that happened this weekend.”
Others might see deleting the app as a futile, and even petty, form of resistance. “The least political acts are so politicized,” says Daniel Fradin (C '17). He points out that a business’s smallest tactical move could be blown completely out of proportion, as occurred over the weekend. “It’s hard to know if you even can live an unpoliticized life at this time.”
On the other hand, Sophia Griffith–Gorgati (C ’18), like Gena, believes that something as quick and painless as deleting an app can serve a symbolic, if minor, political purpose.
“Next to all the other things that we can and should be doing, it’s pretty minor, but there is a possibility that it will be beneficial, or symbolic,” she stated. “If there’s something to impact society, I think we should do it.”
Sophia herself had already deleted Uber a month ago, after learning of the CEO’s involvement with Trump.
Both Sophia and Gena attended theWomen’s March in DCand are involved in resisting Trump’s presidency through other initiatives, like donating to Planned Parenthood orprotesting with campus groups. Deleting Uber was, for them, an act of protest among others. Soon after the #DeleteUber hashtag started trending, Uber used social media to announce that it condemned the executive order. The company also announced that it would set up a $3 million legal defense fund for immigration defense and services. Then, on Thursday, CEO Kalanick announced that he would be stepping down from Trump’s economic advisory board.
It would seem that a weekend’s backlash had some effect after all.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons and Wikimedia