President Donald Trump made headlines on International Holocaust Remembrance Day with his executive order banning refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. As protests broke out in international airports throughout the country, including at Dulles International and Baltimore International Airports. In New York City, one of the busiest air travel destinations in the world, a New York taxi union released a statement that in support of the protest, taxis would no longer be picking up or dropping off customers at John F. Kennedy Airport from 6pm to 7pm during the time of the planned protest.
During the protest, Uber created headlines of its own. Uber executives tweeted that they would not have surge pricing during the busy time. While eliminating surge pricing is usually a way for Uber to not be seen as taking advantage of storms or crises beyond people’s control, many thought Uber was intentionally capitalizing on customers who couldn’t hail a cab. By eliminating surge pricing, they were seen by some as encouraging more people to use their service during a protest. The tweets prompted the hashtag #deleteuber, which trended on twitter and encouraged people to delete their Uber account and switch to Lyft or use a traditional taxi company.
In the ultra-competitive ride sharing business, Uber’s competitor Lyft went on the offensive and pledged $1 million to the ACLU, which filed a class action suit in federal courts protesting the ban. Shortly after the Lyft pledged the money, Uber set up their own $3 million defense fund to help their drivers who were affected by the ban. The Uber reaction was seen as “too little too late” for many users, who also frequently cited Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s connections with Trump via a presidential business advisory committee. In a letter to his employees, Kalanick said that being on the advisory committee was not meant to be an endorsement of the Trump administration. Amidst pressure from the public, Kalanick stepped down from the committee.
The hashtag has caused over 200,000 people to delete their Uber accounts and Lyft to overtake Uber for more downloads. A similar hashtag #grabyourwallet is being used to put consumer pressure on stores who sell Trump brand items. In the past week the popular department store Nordstrom has announced they will no longer sell Ivanka Trump’s clothing line. It is clear that hashtag activism is having an effect on company’s policies.
IMAGE COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS