"Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association." — The United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights
“We firmly oppose any form of gathering or protest." — Uber
Guess there's one thing we can count on during Uber's fight with San Francisco over their vehicles' use of Market Street: no way, no how will they be doing shit like gathering on City Hall's steps to make their position heard. That's because, according to a company spokesperson, Uber firmly opposes gatherings or protests in favor of "a more rational form of communication."
The ghosts of irrational communicators Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, and 240 or so Chinese students might raise an eyebrow at this statement, as the right to gather and protest is seen a basic human one by organizations like the United Nations and Human Rights Watch.
Here's the background: there's been a lot of tension between ride hailing companies like Uber and Chinese officials for the last few months, some of which boiled over Friday, when a local official in Guangzhou reportedly hailed a ride from Uber competitor Didi Kuaidi, then tried to arrest the driver. The result was "what Chinese media is calling a 'mass incident'—a special term used to describe disruptive protests that carries political baggage," Quartz reports, in which ride-hailing drivers gathered to oppose the arrest of their compatriot.
According to Quartz, as soon as Uber caught wind of the protest, they "sent out a stern statement to its drivers, warning them that it does not condone public demonstrations," and a spokesperson told them that “We firmly oppose any form of gathering or protest, and we encourage a more rational form of communication for solving problems."
Fusion reports that Uber drivers (who, as in the US, are considered by the company to be independent contractors, not employees) were sent a "message added that there would be consequences for those who didn’t follow instructions, and that Uber would track drivers’ GPS devices to make sure they comply," in an effort to "maintain social order."
It's probably difficult for some to gin up sympathy for Uber drivers whose rights are being suppressed by the company for which they chose to work! And we've certainly all grumbled over protests at one time or another, especially when they don't reflect our personal values and/or impede our ability to get somewhere.
But I'd like to think that most of us still believe that peaceful public assembly is a basic human right that needs to be supported, not firmly opposed.
So, what gives, Uber? Your guess is as good as mine, as SFist's email (sent several hours ago) to Uber requesting comment and/or context on their spokesperson's remarks has not received a response at publication time.