Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, is backing out of Donald Trump’s economic advisory council, after public perception of support for Trump’s policies led to an online boycott against the ride service. In an email addressed to Uber staff, Kalanick said:
“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.”
The moves came after an online boycott of Uber went viral following Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from 7 Muslim majority nations. Uber continued providing rides to JFK Airport as the New York Taxi Driver’s alliance stopped doing so to protest the ban, and this, along with the CEO’s position on the economic advisory board caused the #DeleteUber hashtag to go viral on Facebook and Twitter last weekend. The company did not disclose how many users deleted their accounts, but Uber was forced to institute an automated process to handle the volume of deletion requests.
The executive order stirred much of Silicon Valley to action, in an industry in which many executives came to the US as immigrants, and now depend on skilled labor from overseas. Executives from Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Lyft, Apple, Netflix, and Amazon all spoke out against the ban, with some companies vowing to take legal action to support challenges to the order.
Criticism from Kalanick seemed to come less readily. On the 28th, an email to staff was shared, which said:
“This ban will impact many innocent people — an issue that I will raise this coming Friday when I go to Washington for President Trump’s first business advisory group meeting.”
As the boycott Uber campaign ramped up the following day, Kalanick referred to the order as “the President’s unjust immigration ban,” and created a 3 million dollar legal defense fund for affected drivers.
However, as the boycott continued, Kalanick began to back away from his decision to remain on the council. In another staff email, he said:
“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.”
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, remains on the council. He defended that decision on Thursday night, writing in a statement:
“Advisory councils simply provide advice and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration. … I understand the perspective of those who object to my attending this meeting, but I believe at this time that engaging on critical issues will on balance serve the greater good.”