It’s been a rough day or so for ride-hailing company Uber, which has been the subject of a massive Twitter campaign calling upon users to stop using its app.
The #DeleteUber hashtag, which is still trending Sunday afternoon and has the backing of celebrities like Lena Dunham, George Takei, started taking off Saturday night, in response to two notable events that created the perfect public relations storm.
First, as tech industry heavyweights on Saturday started to decry US President Donald Trump’s immigration ban as “un-American” and “bigotry,” Uber’s Travis Kalanick, who serves on a strategic forum of business leaders advising Trump, issued a statement seen as lightly critical, if that. It said he would work with the president, and didn’t go much beyond acknowledging that “innocent people,” including its drivers, would be affected by the ban, but that he would offer to help them out. The 90-day ban was implemented via an executive order Trump signed Friday barring immigration to the US from seven majority Muslim countries.
Then, as protests erupted Saturday night at New York’s JFK airport, the mostly-immigrant New York Taxi Workers Alliance stopped service to and from the airport in solidarity with protesters. As it often does to avoid a price-gouging during storms, Uber dropped surge pricing around the airport in response to the stoppage.
Well, that move only fueled the Twitter rage because it made Uber seem like a strike breaker and the company had to do some quick damage control.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) January 29, 2017
“We’re sorry for any confusion about our earlier tweet — it was not meant to break up any strike,” the company said in a statement. “We wanted people to know they could use Uber to get to and from JFK at normal prices, especially last night.”
The next move came Sunday, when Kalanick issued yet another statement on the immigrant ban, this one more critical, calling it “unjust,” and pledging to create a $3 million legal defense fund to help drivers with immigration and translation services.
While much stronger than his first statement, some took it to be a response to the #DeleteUber movement.
Incidentally, rival Lyft earlier Sunday issued a scathing statement on Trump’s ban and said it’s donating $1 million to the ACLU over the next four years for legal defense of immigrants.
An Uber spokeswoman declined to comment beyond Kalanick’s official posts and the statement about the JFK surge pricing.