Uber loses 200,000 customers after scabbing during taxi driver strike
JFK's terminal 4 during the strike was uncharacteristically empty. | New York Taxi Workers Alliance, courtesy of their Twitter Page

Gig economy, meet mass action. On January 28, President Trump issued his splatter painting of an executive order on immigration and stranded over 1,000 refugees and green card holders in airports across the country. The executive order was the follow up to the campaign promise to order “a complete and total shut down of Muslims entering the United States.”

Thousands gathered at airports to support the detained and demand their release. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance issued a statement via Twitter that they were issuing a temporary work stoppage at JFK airport.

A statement posted on their Facebook account reads, in part, “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.”

However, Uber, the ridesharing app, continued to allow service to JFK. In fact, prices for Uber rides from the airport effectively dropped during the strike. Usually, when there is high demand for Uber rides and not enough drivers to meet the demand, the price of the rides goes up, but Uber turned off that feature.

The damage was done. By the next morning #deleteuber was trending and, as of February 3, the latest estimate of the number of deleted Uber accounts reached over 200,000.

The backlash has also resulted in the resignation of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick from President Trump’s economic advisory council. He was supposed to join the CEO’s of major corporations, including Walmart and GM, at a meeting in the White House today but it took place without him.

The CEO also sent out a statement to all Uber employees condemning the travel ban and committing to helping employees who are affected by it.

“We are working out a process to identify these drivers and compensate them pro bono during the next three months to help mitigate some of the financial stress and complications with supporting their families and putting food on the table,” read the statement.

By contrast, Uber competitor Lyft made no such efforts to lower prices to profit from the strike. Even though the same exploitative business model that drives Uber and much of the gig economy also drives Lyft, Lyft CEO Logan Green has no ties to the Trump administration, condemned the travel ban and has committed to donating 1 million dollars to the ACLU over the next four years.


Patrick J. Foote
Patrick J. Foote

Patrick Foote writes occasionally for People's World. At the University of Central Florida, he worked with the Student Labor Action Project organizing around the intersection of student and worker issues. He would go on to work in the labor movement in such organizations as Central Florida Jobs with Justice, AFSCME Council 79, and OUR Walmart.