Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s timing couldn’t have been better for a taxi worker’s protest in New York Thursday.
The embattled Uber founder decided to step down from President Donald Trump’s business advisory board mere minutes before the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a union that claims to represent 50,000 drivers in New York, was scheduled to protest the ride-hailing startup at the company’s driver office in Long Island City, New York.
It was exactly what the group said it wanted — they attributed the move to their own activism — but instead of packing up their signs and heading home, the NYTWA continued to rally against the company.
Why? Uber’s low wages were “Trumpian,” one of the speakers said, and Uber took advantage of immigrants.
The protest, which drew fewer than 100 people to Uber’s driver outpost in Queens, further spotlighted Uber’s ongoing difficulties in getting its message across — not only to the local governments and businesses it needs for support, but to its own customers.
An unprecedented, simultaneous rally across U.S. airports last week protesting Trump’s order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations sparked an online campaign against Uber with the hashtag #deleteUber. More than 200,000 users who were under the impression the company was attempting to profit off the backs of protesting taxi drivers deleted their accounts, according to a source.
In the wave of support of its campaign against Uber, the taxi association found a new opportunity to make demands of the ride-hail company. Multiple tweets from the group’s account equate Kalanick and Uber to Trump.
The vitriol directed at Uber and its CEO was unmatched, and stands in stark contrast to the response elicited from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who said he would remain on Trump’s advisory council despite his objection to the immigration ban.
“I understand the perspective of those who object to my attending this meeting, but I believe at this time that engaging on critical issues will on balance serve the greater good,” Musk explained in a statement.
NYTWA is still protesting in LIC pic.twitter.com/DgvdTx5jFc— Johana Bhuiyan (@JMBooyah) February 2, 2017
Uber still hasn’t elicited any praise.
“They should have stood in solidarity with the taxi drivers and immigrants,” New York Senator Michael Gianaris told Recode. Gianaris, who was invited by the alliance, also joined the protest.
Uber should have shut down rides to the airport, he said.
He commended Kalanick for stepping down from the advisory board, saying, “Who knows why he did it, but it’s not a coincidence that he announced it 10 minutes before we were protesting outside his office.”
Gianaris didn’t agree with the argument that it’s more effective to engage with the current administration.
“These aren’t mainstream issues,” Gianaris said. Normal rules don’t apply, according to the senator, who said he was there to protest Trump’s policies and what he perceived as Uber’s support of the new administration.
But if Uber’s messaging was muddled, so too is the NYTWA’s.
Signs at the protest showed an array of concerns that — fairly or not — were all directed at the company. One read, “Uber has $$ to donate but not to pay drivers.” Another, “My hijab is my right to privacy.” And another said in big bold letters, “Driver Power.”
At one point, a speaker yelled, “We don’t want self-driving cars!” Another said, “Without low-wage workers, there would be no democracy.”
Cloaked in anti-Trump activism, drivers were simply rallying against Uber.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.