Trump’s anti-Muslim ban has had harrowing effects on the lives of real people, keeping loved ones away from each other, crushing the dreams of immigrants and trapping people in unfair and unjust situations. It is an aggressive act, designed to incite fear and hatred and put in place to validate a disgusting view of people around the world. Yet the question of how to oppose the ban effectively may prove difficult to answer. While some have put their faith in the judicial system, which may prove effective, Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court shows that if the case reaches the court after Gorsuch appointment, there is a good chance the ruling may stand. Personally, I think a more broad-based approach is necessary, which can be seen by what happened last Thursday night.
Upon Trump’s announcement of his anti-Muslim immigration ban on January 28th, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance issued their own statement on Facebook: “Stand in Solidarity With Thousands Protesting Inhumane, Unconstitutional Ban of Muslim Refugees and travelers. Be united brothers & sisters for a just world.” This announcement signaled a temporary halt of pick-ups at New York’s JFK airport from 6pm-7pm. The Alliance, founded by immigrants, is not a traditional union in that it cannot participate in collective bargaining. Nevertheless, it still undertakes campaigns to secure benefits for its drivers and is a member of the larger labor movement through its association with the AFL-CIO.
In response to this work stoppage, Uber decided to end its surge pricing, reducing the cost of rides and attempting to break the stoppage. While Uber has since apologized for its actions and pledged money to help its own drivers affected overseas, it has not addressed the actual taxi drivers it was trying to screw over. Uber’s actions represent the utter hypocrisy of companies who participate in the so-called “sharing economy.” While these companies often claim to emblems of “social change,” they often inflict enormous damage on the American worker and have a great deal in common with the Trump administration’s new policy direction. Sensitive to this fact, thousands of customers began deleting Uber from their phones under the #deleteUber campaign.
It’s important to understand why Uber’s employment practices are so bad. People who work for Uber don’t actually “work” for Uber. They are not employees. They are not protected by labor rights. Uber has constantly fought unionization and the assumption of any responsibility towards its drivers. Furthermore, Uber is taking jobs from the taxi drivers who went on strike, who are actually employees. They are also part of a union and can receive benefits such as healthcare and others from their employees. Uber does not have to provide any of this. The sharing economy is really just a way of taking full-time, stable jobs and giving them to those participating in part-time employment in order to cut their pay and benefits. Companies in nearly every industry have participated in these types of practices, leaving many workers in jobs that do not ensure them with any protection whatsoever.
In this sense, while Uber and other part-time work may be more flexible, it gives no guarantee to a person that they actually have a job which can provide for them and their family. In fact, while Uber and other companies have been publicly supportive of better immigration, even denouncing the anti-Muslim ban, they have been as anti-labor as possible. Lyft’s CEO is a special adviser on regulation for the Trump Administration, while Elon Musk, Tesla’s owner, supported Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. While the sharing economies of Silicon Valley have distanced themselves from Trump to a degree, they are certainly on board with Trump’s labor policies.
On Wednesday, Congress introduced national right-to-work legislation that would effectively eliminate union security agreements and greatly damage unions’ abilities to sustain themselves. On Thursday, Trump nominated Andrew Puzder, the CEO of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., as his Secretary of Labor. Puzder has been a vocal opponent to minimum wage increases and worker’s breaks, while his own company has violated overtime laws all over the country. All of Trump’s actions point to his administration being one of the most anti-labor administrations since Ronald Reagan. In this way, companies such as Uber, Lyft and others are emblems of the Trump’s anti-labor, anti-union agenda. Similar to the travel ban, they target vulnerable individuals and deprive them of opportunity. Even the companies that have denounced Trump’s ban are directly complicit in the harmful practice of picking profit over people.
The question of how to respond to the immigration ban and the degradation of labor rights and to all the other policies of the Trump administration is a difficult one. Yet I think the New York Taxi Workers Alliance said it best when they stated, “Be united, brothers & sisters, for a just world.” Solidarity across movements is important; Labor unions need to support immigrant rights organizations, and both should be supporting the feminist, environmental, civil rights, and other movements who oppose Trump’s agenda. As shown by the taxi drivers’ strike, these issues are linked, and opposing Trump plainly means opposing the sharing economy, opposing the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, opposing the defunding of Planned Parenthood and opposing racist policing tactics.
In order to oppose Trump effectively, we must begin to organize together. Issues are not isolated to themselves, but are linked, and struggling may only be truly effective if we bridge our differences to understand how to fight together.