Why Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Bounced from Trump's Advisory Council
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has bounced.
In an internal email to employees, Kalanick writes that he has resigned from his position on President Donald Trump’s Business Advisory Council, a cabinet of prominent CEOs that advises the president on economic matters.
In an internal letter to employees obtained by the New York Times, Kalanick explained his decision to leave Trump’s advisory board.
Earlier today I spoke briefly with the president about the immigration executive order and its issues for our community. I also let him know that I would not be able to participate on his economic council. Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the president or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that.
“It has been misinterpreted” might be putting it lightly, given the flack Uber has caught, included a #DeleteUber boycott, in the past few weeks.
On Friday, Kalanick drew fire from angry users after Uber turned off surge pricing to meet increased demand during spontaneous protests at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport against Trump’s executive order limiting primarily Muslim travelers from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa. Many users interpreted this move as Kalanick cashing in on a gap in service caused by a city-wide taxi strike also protesting the ban, which spurred the boycott.
Kalanick’s relationship with his labor force has been strained at best, and often outright hostile.
After widespread criticism, Kalanick asked for customer help in supporting refugees, immigrants, and permanent residents affected by Trump’s colloquially named Muslim ban, and pledged to create a $3 million legal defense fund for Uber drivers — many of whom identify as Muslim or come from the seven countries named in Trump’s executive order — affected by the ban.
Kalanick and Tesla CEO Elon Musk have drawn arguably the most public criticism for serving on Trump’s economic advisory council, which also includes the CEOs of General Motors, Disney, Pepsi, Wal-Mart, and IBM.
Here’s the full letter Kalanick sent to employees:
Earlier today I spoke briefly with the President about the immigration executive order and its issues for our community. I also let him know that I would not be able to participate on his economic council. Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the President or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that.
I spent a lot of time thinking about this and mapping it to our values. There are a couple that are particularly relevant:
Inside Out - The implicit assumption that Uber (or I) was somehow endorsing the Administration’s agenda has created a perception-reality gap between who people think we are, and who we actually are.
Just Change - We must believe that the actions we take ultimately move the ball forward. There are many ways we will continue to advocate for just change on immigration but staying on the council was going to get in the way of that. The executive order is hurting many people in communities all across America. Families are being separated, people are stranded overseas and there’s a growing fear the U.S. is no longer a place that welcomes immigrants.
Immigration and openness to refugees is an important part of our country’s success and quite honestly to Uber’s. I am incredibly proud to work directly with people like Thuan and Emil, both of whom were refugees who came here to build a better life for themselves. I know it has been a tough week for many of you and your families, as well as many thousands of drivers whose stories are heartfelt and heart-wrenching.
Please know, your questions and stories on Tuesday, along with what I heard from drivers, have kept me resilient and reminded me of one of our most essential cultural values, Be Yourself. We will fight for the rights of immigrants in our communities so that each of us can be who we are with optimism and hope for the future.