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New Yorkers Delete Uber After App Seen as Undermining JFK Taxi Strike

By Nicole Levy | January 30, 2017 2:09pm | Updated on January 30, 2017 4:00pm
 Irate Uber users have been deleting their accounts after the company appeared to take advantage of a yellow cab strike at JFK Airport.
Irate Uber users have been deleting their accounts after the company appeared to take advantage of a yellow cab strike at JFK Airport.
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DNAinfo/Nicole Levy

New Yorkers are deleting the Uber app from their smartphones in protest of what they see as the ride-hailing startup's opportunistic response to scoop up riders during a strike by other cabdrivers opposed to President Donald Trump's ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Hours after the New York Taxi Workers Alliance announced drivers would make no pickups at JFK Airport in objection to the president's "inhumane and unconstitutional" executive order, Uber temporarily canceled surge pricing for riders in the area.

App users angered by the temporary detention of several people flying into the Queens airport interpreted Uber's move as an opportunistic effort to undermine cab drivers boycotting business at the major international travel hub.

The hashtag #DeleteUber soon took off on social media.

An Uber spokeswoman told USA Today that she didn't know how many customers had deleted their app, which had also come under scrutiny for CEO Travis Kalanick's original statement mildly criticizing, but not explicitly condemning Trump's ban.

"We're sorry for any confusion about our earlier tweet," the company said in a statement Sunday. "It was not meant to break up any strike. We wanted people to know they could use Uber to get to and from JFK at normal prices, especially last night."

For a brief period Saturday night, the Port Authority suspended the AirTrain service to and from Terminal 4, preventing protesters from using the service to get to the airport by requiring everyone to show airline tickets before boarding.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo soon ordered the organization supervising New York airports to reverse its decision, citing constituents' right to peaceful protest.

"The people of New York will have their voices heard," Cuomo said in a statement Saturday evening.  

Uber's main rival made a show of listening: Lyft announced early Sunday that it would donate $1 million over the next four years to the American Civil Liberties Union, which had filed a lawsuit challenging Trump's order and sent immigration lawyers to assist detainees at JFK.

"We created Lyft to be a model for the type of community we want our world to be: diverse, inclusive, and safe," Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer wrote in a blog post. "Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft's and our nation's core values. We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community."

Some New Yorkers applauded Lyft's swift response as a principled one.

Others saw it as a capitalistic maneuver.

Sunday afternoon, Uber followed up by taking a stand against Trump's immigration ban, establishing a $3 million legal defense fund to help drivers with immigration and translation services.

"At Uber we’ve always believed in standing up for what’s right," CEO Kalanick wrote in a Facebook post. "Today we need your help supporting drivers who may be impacted by the President's unjust immigration ban."

The ban denies citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — entry to the U.S. with any kind of visa for 90 days. On Saturday, border officers also obstructed admittance for green card holders, who have been declared permanent residents of the U.S. after being born in those countries, despite governmental reps' denial that the move did not apply to green card holders.

The executive order signed Friday also suspends all refugee admission for 120 days and prohibits Syrian refugees from entering the country until further notice.