The people of New York know a bit about how to handle Donald Trump. After all, they’ve been doing battle with the real-estate magnate since he first launched his Manhattan empire in the 1980s. So the new celebrity presidency won’t intimidate the metropolis that he has spent a lifetime trying, and failing, to conquer.
When the Trump White House dropped the executive order double-bombshell last week of the border wall and the Muslim migration ban, the city sprang instantly into action—righteously shocked but refusing to be awed.
The city’s cab drivers, many of whom represent a diverse Muslim-American diaspora, including the Muslim-majority countries Trump’s order targeted, protested at JFK airport, which soon became a symbolic ground zero for resistance against the ban and the wall. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) responded to Trump’s actions with a statement of resistance and called for a strike:
As an organization whose membership is largely Muslim, a workforce that’s almost universally immigrant, and a working-class movement that is rooted in the defense of the oppressed, we say no to this inhumane and unconstitutional ban…. Drivers stand in solidarity with refugees coming to America in search of peace and safety and with those who are simply trying to return to their homes here in America after traveling abroad.
The group both denounced Trump’s executive orders and rebuked his new Silicon Valley pal—Uber CEO Trevor Kalanick. Not only does Uber’s rideshare business model—which has expanded globally by shredding local regulations and reducing once-stable driver livelihoods into precarious “gig work”—align with Trump’s anti-government worldview; Kalanick’s participation in Trump’s economic advisory committee has revealed how the fresh-faced tech world is more embedded in the establishment than its “progressive” image suggests.
Uber, meanwhile, further insulted cabbies by continuing to operate during the airport strike, apparently exploiting the ridesharing “opportunities” offered by the work stoppage. The strike spiraled into a nationwide solidarity campaign: “#DeleteUber” spurred consumers to show their discontent with Kalanick by nixing the app from their phones.
Kalanick eventually issued an olive branch, promising legal advice for drivers affected by the Muslim ban. But NYTWA, which organizes both cabbies and Uber drivers, weren’t satisfied, and rallied again yesterday, just ahead of Kalanick’s first scheduled business advisory council meeting, Uber’s headquarters in Queens.