“Earlier today I spoke briefly with the president about the immigration executive order and its issues for our community,” Kalanick wrote in an email to Uber staff obtained by the Guardian. “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.”
Full email from Travis Kalanick to Uber staff
The company faced a viral boycott campaign in the wake of Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. Uber’s non-participation in a work stoppage called by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, in addition to Kalanick’s position in the economic advisory group, led many users to pledge to #DeleteUber, a hashtag that trended on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend.
Uber has not revealed how many users deleted their accounts, but it was enough that the company implemented an automated process to handle the demand.
News of the resignation was first reported by the New York Times.
Trump’s executive order has faced widespread backlash in Silicon Valley, where many top executives and company founders are immigrants and where companies rely heavily on highly skilled workers from abroad.
Executives from companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Netflix spoke out against the travel ban. Many companies announced donations to civil liberties or refugee rights organizations, and some have announced intentions to support legal challenges to the order.
Kalanick initially seemed hesitant to criticize the executive order. In an email to Uber staff that he shared on Facebook on 28 January, the CEO wrote, “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.”
The next day, as the #DeleteUber campaign took off, Kalanick strengthened his rhetoric, calling the executive order “the President’s unjust immigration ban” and announcing the creation of a $3m “legal defense fund” to assist affected drivers.
“I’m going to use my position on Pres economic council to stand up for what’s right,” he tweeted.
By Thursday, however, Kalanick appeared to come to the conclusion that his position on Trump’s advisory council was more trouble than it was worth.
“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,” he wrote in the staff email.
Another tech industry icon, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, remains on the advisory council. He had tweeted on 29 January that he opposed the ban but would seek “advisory council consensus” on amendments.
On Thursday night, Musk released a statement saying that he and others in the council would “express our objections” to the ban and “offer suggestions for changes to the policy”.
He also defended his position on the council, writing: “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.”
Source: The Guardian