Facing a backlash from customers embracing the #DeleteUber hashtag, the ride-hail giant’s CEO Travis Kalanick told employees in a memo today that he was leaving the economic advisory council formed by President Trump, according to multiple reports. A spokesperson for Uber confirmed that Kalanick has left the president’s advisory panel.
“Earlier today I spoke briefly with the president about the immigration executive order and its issues for our community,” Mr. Kalanick wrote, according to The New York Times. “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.”
Kalanick was scheduled to meet with Trump on Friday, at which point he said he planned to make his opposition to the immigration ban on seven Muslim-majority countries known.
But after facing a wave of criticism based on a bumbled response to the ban, as well as allegations that Uber had broke a taxi worker strike during the protest at JFK airport, Kalanick has clearly decided that Trump isn’t worth his trouble. The online protest seemed to provide a boost to the company’s main rival, Lyft, which saw its daily download rate for iOS exceed Uber’s for the first time ever.
In addition, Disney CEO Bob Iger won’t be attending Friday’s first council meeting citing a scheduling conflict. Other council members include Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla, Mary Barra of General Motors, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Company, Laurence Fink of BlackRock, and Virginia Rometty of IBM.
The decision to step down drew praise from Uber drivers and Muslim advocates. “Membership on this council is an endorsement of bigotry, period,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, in a statement. “Thanks to the thousands of activists who protested and made their voice heard, Kalanick and Uber woke up to this reality.”
Jim Conigliaro, Jr., founder of the Independent Drivers Guild, which advocates for nearly 50,000 Uber drivers in New York City, said he was “heartened that Uber has listened to the drivers and the community on this important issue that is so integral to the promise of the American dream.”
Here’s Kalanick’s full memo:
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.
Correction: The original article erroneously stated that Disney CEO Bob Iger had left the business council. It has been corrected to say that he’s missing the next council meeting scheduled for Friday, due to a conflict.