Uber Technologies Inc. was in critics’ crosshairs while Lyft Inc. was winning support after the companies’ very different responses to President Donald Trump’s immigration order.
The backlash came as New York taxi drivers went on strike Saturday and joined a protest at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport against Trump’s order blocking entry to the U.S. by immigrants from select largely Muslim countries, while a tweet from Uber indicated the company had suspended surge pricing, causing some to view the company as seeking to undermine the strike.
Lyft largely stayed out of Saturday’s confrontation but sent an email to users Sunday saying that the company would be donating $1 million over the next four years to the American Civil Liberties Union.
President Trump signed an executive order Friday that banned the entry of immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely. A federal judge stayed the order Saturday, which temporarily stopped the deportation of refugees and other immigrants detained at U.S. airports.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, with a membership of 19,000 people, had called on all drivers, including those with Uber and Lyft, not to pick up passengers from JFK and to instead join the protest. The group said its membership is largely Muslim and made up of immigrants, and that it was “in defense of the oppressed,” as well as its own drivers, that it was speaking out against the ban. During that time, Uber issued a tweet promoting its service.
“We’re sorry for any confusion about our earlier tweet—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 tonight,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement to MarketWatch.
Still, consumers were not pleased, and many turned toward Lyft, which had issued a statement against the ban as well as promising the donation.
“We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community,” John Zimmer and Logan Green, Lyft’s co-founders, wrote in the email.
Lyft and Uber are rivals in the ride-hailing space, but Uber has a higher valuation, at $68 billion, and more funding, compared with Lyft, which has a valuation of $5.5 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In a blog post on Saturday, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said his company was reaching out to drivers who would be affected and that he would bring up the policy’s implications on “innocent” people when he meets with Trump during the next White House business advisory group gathering. Kalanick is a member of a that group along with Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, and Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, among others.
Uber said it has begun reaching out to drivers affected by the ban, including drivers who are residents but not citizens and are currently outside the country. The company said it would work to “compensate them pro bono” for the missed wages with Uber.
Kalanick’s decision to join the White House council was recently met with protests at the Uber headquarters in San Francisco, according to several news outlets. Musk’s participation was also criticized. Kalanick explained in the blog post that he chose to be part of the council because he believes the company can be more effective by partnering with and speaking up to governments.
“Whatever your view please know that I’ve always believed in principled confrontation and just change; and have never shied away (maybe to my detriment) from fighting for what’s right,” Kalanick wrote.