Protests swept the nation after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order that banned immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries on Friday.
On Saturday, Jan. 28, the Taxi Workers’ Alliance, a nonprofit union that claims to represent more than 50,000 drivers in New York City, stood alongside those voicing their opposition to Trump’s policies at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and asked its members to halt work at the airport between 6 pm and 7 pm.
At 7:36 pm — half an hour after the TWA said the stoppage would end — Uber tweeted that it had turned off surge pricing at the airport. Immediately, accusations that the ride-hail company was attempting to profit off protesting cab drivers by making it cheaper for consumers to hail a ride began to crop up on Twitter. This was quickly followed by a call to #deleteUber — and indeed, many began posting screenshots of themselves deleting the Uber app or registering for Lyft.
But of those calling for a sweeping boycott of Uber, many cited a number of other reasons for deleting their accounts. For them, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s involvement with Trump’s advisory board and what they saw as his company’s attempt to cross picket lines was just the last straw.
The calls to delete Uber appear to be working — at least temporarily. Many of those deleting their Uber accounts stated they would only use Lyft. On Monday, Lyft surpassed Uber in daily downloads on the App Store for the first time ever, according to Mobile Action, which studies the app market.
One former Uber user said he hadn’t used Lyft until today, but the company’s decision to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union convinced him to delete Uber. (Uber instead announced that it was going to help its drivers affected by the ban.) But it was a Lyft driver’s account of Uber’s treatment of drivers that solidified his decision.
“[A] Lyft driver today told me some of the differences between Uber and Lyft,” a Twitter user who goes by @Cyberized told Recode. “Sounds like they treat the drivers better.”
Another, Andrew Staples, said he already preferred Lyft because of Uber executive Emil Michael’s comments about digging up dirt on Pando editor Sarah Lacy, who has been a vocal critic of the ride-hail company.
“After the whole Sarah Lacy thing from a few years ago, I decided I was going to only use Lyft, though I gave in and Ubered a few times when it was a necessity,” Staples told Recode. “I won’t be doing that anymore. After tracking all the news this weekend, including Uber strikebreaking at JFK, I got the early morning email from Lyft that they were donating $1 million to the ACLU. It’s such a brilliant publicity move, but they are also spending real money.”
way to scab @Uber_NYC thanks for reminding me to delete the app— Sarah (@sarahsayssoo) January 29, 2017
@mmsees i had mostly switched to lyft already but now i'm done for good. it takes longer to get a car but i can wait— Sarah (@sarahsayssoo) January 29, 2017
Even the TWA used this as an opportunity to disparage the company for “worker exploitation.”
“Now is the time for all those who value justice and equality in holding Uber accountable, not only in its complicity with Trump’s hateful policies but also for impoverishing workers,” the TWA statement read.
But here are some important counterpoints: Lyft, too, continued to service JFK airport during the protest. And both companies use independent contractors, which means that neither can actually tell drivers not to go to the airport — because telling workers how to perform their jobs is reserved for employers, not those contracting with freelancers.
It’s also a lose-lose situation for both companies.
In a choice between upping the price to meet increased demand and maintaining regular prices so as not to be accused of price gouging — as Uber typically is accused of doing if the company keeps its surge pricing on during high-volume events like this — the company decided to avoid the errors of its past.
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
But the deck is stacked against Uber — some of which is the company’s own doing. The confluence of Kalanick’s involvement on Trump’s advisory board — a decision he defended to employees during an all-hands meeting — plus Lyft’s quick decision to donate to the ACLU, combined with a history of very public slip-ups and issues with driver treatment, contributed to many people deciding that the best course of action was to boycott Uber.
“My feelings about Uber are the result of stuff that has gone on over the last several years,” Staples said. “This weekend, and the CEO’s position on Trump’s board, were just the final straw.”
It’s why many people defend their choice to switch to Lyft, though even the TWA seems to think that’s misguided.
Another thing: We don’t know if Lyft would have accepted an invitation to Trump’s advisory board; a Lyft spokesperson did not respond to request for comment on that.
And few other companies that are serving on these boards have faced the same degree of vitriol as Uber and Kalanick.
“I am not personally boycotting any of the other companies, but it has made me view Elon Musk in a less positive light,” Sean Muirhead, who also deleted Uber, told Recode.
“A boycott for me is a case-by-case situation,” said Steve Forcum, another Uber deleter. “I'm not going out of my way to compile a list of brands whose views do not match my own. Instead, I plan on reacting to this type of action with my wallet.”
Uber wouldn't provide comment beyond Kalanick’s statement that announced the company’s plan to compensate drivers affected by the immigration ban and create a $3 million legal defense fund for drivers.
“We wanted people to know they could use Uber to get to and from JFK at normal prices, especially last night,” the company said yesterday (Jan. 29).
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.