In September, Uber offered free rides while taxi drivers in Mérida went on strike. Uber only grew in popularity.
In the U.S., however, a “#deleteuber” movement has cost Uber customers after they appeared to exploit a different kind of taxi protest.
It all started Saturday when Uber disregarded a one-hour taxi strike at JFK airport in New York City in solidarity with detained Muslims. Drivers affiliated with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance refused to pick up passengers 6 and 7 p.m. in deference to protesters demonstrating against President Donald Trump’s executive order to prevent entry to passengers from certain Muslim-majority countries.
They didn’t offer free rides, but Uber set aside typical Saturday-night surge pricing and continued to serve the airport.
This time, exploiting a strike to gain business has backfired.
I’ve used .@uber for years. No more. Their CEO is colluding with Trump and has chosen not to decry the ban.
I’m deleting. Please join me. pic.twitter.com/UkTFOOvtck
— Julieanne Smolinski (@BoobsRadley) January 29, 2017
Hundreds on Twitter condemned the company and #DeleteUber began trending worldwide. People began sharing screenshots of themselves deleting the app from their smartphones. Rival Lyft then pledged to donate $1 million to the ACLU.
An Uber spokeswoman could not say how many people had deleted Uber from their phones.
“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 on Sunday. “We wanted people to know they could use Uber to get to and from JFK at normal prices, especially last night.”
Compounding optics problem, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick confirmed that he had agreed to join a White House advisory panel on business and technology.
Attempting to quiet the social media noise, Kalanick on Sunday vowed to set up a $3 million legal defense fund for Uber drivers swept up in the executive order. He also stepped up his criticism of the ban, calling it “unjust.”
In Yucatán, Uber is still at battle with state officials, and taxi drivers are still staging protests against the company. About 6,000 drivers are signed up as Uber workers in Mérida despite the state’s assertion that they are pirate operators until they register and agree to newly drafted laws.
Lyft is not available in Mexico, but a locally owned service called Ryde & Go is another app-based option.
Uber’s local Twitter account hasn’t been active since last March, around the time they first arrived in Mérida.
“… it seems as if Uber’s long history of being aggressive and developing a reputation as a bully of the transportation industry has come back to bite it at the worst possible time, wrote The New York Times “Perhaps that won’t affect Uber in the long term, but it sure looks painful right now.”