US ‘Lyft’ driver fired for ‘US Jews Say Ceasefire’ poster in car

Sergei Kostin was fired by Lyft for ‘discrimination’ after a customer complaint [Mohamed Elbedewy/Al-Araby Al-Jadeed]

The member of an anti-war activist group in the US was sacked from his job from Lyft – Uber’s equivalent in the US – seemingly for having a poster inside his car calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Sergei Kostin, a member of Code Pink, a feminist movement which opposes US militarism, was sacked from his job at the large rideshare company for alleged “discrimination”, after a customer made a complaint against him.

While Lyft later retracted its decision following a massive social media campaign slamming its decision, the incident highlighted the wider assault on pro-Palestine voices in the US and beyond, where even calling for a ceasefire in Gaza is frequently being deliberately cast as veiled antisemitism.

“Some time last week, two women got into my car for a rideshare, and as they got into the car, one woman said to the other that she was ‘uncomfortable’,” explained Sergei to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister edition.

He assumed that “the material I had displayed, in my car, was what she was uncomfortable with. We had no exchange, she got out of the car, and that was it.”

Sergei, who lives in Washington, said in his car he had a small poster from Jewish Voice for Peace, which says “US Jews Say Ceasefire”. He also had the following books in the back of the car:  “My walk with Palestine”, “Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism”, and “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”.

There were also several posters from Code Pink, one stating “Free Palestine” and one about Julian Assange. The woman took a photo of one of the posters before leaving the car, Sergei recalled.

After eight years working at Lyft, Sergei received an email 24 hours after the incident informing him his membership as a driver on the platform had been suspended, for allegedly discriminating against a passenger.

Sergei Kostin had a poster stating ‘US Jews Say Ceasefire’ in the back of his car [Mohamed Elbedewy/Al-Araby Al-Jadeed]

One day later he says his account was terminated, without any attempt by the company to reach out to him for his point of view.

Sergei says he was shocked at the company’s decision to fire him without contacting him about the incident.

He asked Lyft to reconsider, informed them they would be legally liable for actions which had discriminated against him and sought to limit his freedom of expression, and that there would be a social media campaign against them. However, Lyft stated that the decision was final.

However, after Sergei posted a video interview with Code Pink’s founder Medea Benjamin about his dismissal and it was shared widely on X, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube, Lyft left comments on the platforms saying that his account had been reactivated – based on the many years he had worked at the company and the high ratings customers had left him.

However, Sergei has not yet decided whether to keep working at the company, as he feels he is owed a public apology and explanation.

He says he started displaying the ceasefire poster in October after Jewish Voice for Peace called for this at a huge protest in Washington.

He says he wanted to speak out for the Palestinians, adding that the genocide happening to the Palestinian people is unlike anything humankind has witnessed before, and the US government is complicit.

He says that with many passengers, he has deep discussions: “We exchange conversation and talk deeply about the scale of the atrocity and what the US government and Israel is doing to the Palestinian people, not just today, but over the last 75 years”.   

Code Pink is a feminist human rights and anti-war group in the US. Its members have mounted frequent high profile protests since Israel’s current war on Gaza demanding a ceasefire in Gaza, an end to the genocide, and the termination of support for Israel.

This article is based on an article which appeared in our Arabic edition by Mohamed Elbedewy on 26 June 2024. To read the original article click here.

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