“Hit them where it hurts – in their pockets,” people posted on social media over the weekend with the hashtag #DeleteUber, and several mobile screengrabs showing a “delete Uber?” icon. Apparently, the viral boycott campaign which a good number of celebrities participated in was quite effective that it forced Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber to step down from President Trump’s economic advisory council.
“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,” Kalanick wrote in a memo to his employees on Thursday, February 2, 2017.
In the wake of President Trump’s executive order banning travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries, there were protests at airports around the United States, which the New York Taxi Workers Alliance participated in, in solidarity. On Saturday, the union announced via Twitter that its members would avoid John F Kennedy International Airport for an hour, 6 pm – 7 pm. By 7:30 pm, Uber tweeted that surge pricing had been turned off at JFK Airport, which people interpreted as an attempt to break the strike. What followed was a widespread social media campaign to delete the app and cancel existing accounts.
The following day, Kalanick condemned Trump’s immigration ban via a Facebook post calling it “unjust” and announcing the creation of a $3 million legal defence fund to help affected Uber drivers. He also tweeted, “I’m going to use my position on Pres. economic council to stand up for what’s right.” In addition, users requesting to delete their accounts received an email stating, “Uber shares your views on the immigration ban: it’s unjust, wrong and against everything we stand for as a company.”
But his attempt at damage control seems to be a little too late. On Tuesday, Uber’s rival Lyft overtook it on the Apple App Store. According to reports, so many people were requesting to delete their Uber accounts, the company had to implement an automated process to handle the demand. Prior to the events of last weekend, Kalanick, along with other participating CEOs received widespread criticism when he joined Trumps Strategic and Policy Forum last December, but what seemed an attempt to end a strike action was just the last straw, obviously.
Read Kalanick’s full memo to employees below:
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.”