[Marxism] Uber C.E.O. to Leave Trump Advisory Council After Criticism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Feb 3 09:47:13 MST 2017


NY Times, Feb. 3 2017
Uber C.E.O. to Leave Trump Advisory Council After Criticism
By MIKE ISAAC

SAN FRANCISCO — Travis Kalanick needed everyone to take a deep breath.

The chief executive of Uber was holding a regularly scheduled all-hands 
meeting on Tuesday at the ride-hailing company’s San Francisco 
headquarters when he faced an onslaught of questions from upset employees.

Uber was under attack — unfairly, many staff members believed — after 
people accused the company of seeking to profit from giving rides to 
airport customers in New York during weekend protests against President 
Trump’s immigration order.

But there was another matter disturbing the employees: Mr. Kalanick 
himself. He had joined Mr. Trump’s economic advisory council in 
December. After the immigration order against refugees and seven 
Muslim-majority countries, many staff members wondered why Mr. Kalanick 
was still willing to advise the president.

“What would it take for you to quit the economic council?” at least two 
employees asked at the Tuesday meeting.

On Thursday, Mr. Kalanick gave his answer, stepping down from Mr. 
Trump’s economic advisory council. “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,” Mr. Kalanick wrote in an email to 
employees obtained by The New York Times.

Mr. Kalanick’s exit from the advisory council underscores the tricky 
calculus facing many Silicon Valley corporate chieftains who try to work 
with the new administration. On one hand, many tech executives have 
openly tried to engage with the president, a path that is typically good 
for business. Yet Mr. Trump’s immigration order has been so unpopular 
with so many tech workers — many of whom are immigrants themselves and 
who advocate globalization — that they are now exerting pressure on 
their chief executives to push back forcefully against the administration.

Thirty miles south of Uber’s headquarters, for example, Facebook 
employees have voiced frustration that Peter Thiel, the billionaire tech 
investor and adviser to Mr. Trump, still has a seat on the social 
network’s board. At Google, employees have staged protests against the 
immigration order. At Twitter’s headquarters, some employees have said 
they are uneasy about the president’s heavy reliance on their service to 
send divisive messages.

The tension over continuing to work with Mr. Trump reached a breaking 
point at Uber because Mr. Kalanick was, until Thursday, one of the most 
vocal proponents among tech chiefs of engaging with the president. As 
recently as Saturday, Mr. Kalanick had publicly said in a blog post that 
the best route forward was to have “a seat at the table.” He had added, 
“We partner around the world optimistically in the belief that by 
speaking up and engaging we can make a difference.”

Outside of the internal pressure, Uber faced other fallout from Mr. 
Kalanick’s stance. More than 200,000 customers had deleted their accounts.

In addition, Uber rivals had seized the moment to attack the company and 
bolster their own businesses. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance sent 
emails to the news media calling attention to Uber’s ties to Mr. Trump, 
and organized a protest at Uber’s New York office for Thursday. Lyft, 
another ride-hailing service, pledged to donate $1 million to the 
American Civil Liberties Union and has seen its app shoot toward the top 
of the download charts.

Uber drivers, many of them immigrants who work for the ride-hailing 
company on a freelance basis, were also upset.

“There would be no Uber without immigrants,” said Jim Conigliaro Jr., 
founder of the Independent Drivers Guild, an organization that 
represents and advocates protections for nearly 50,000 Uber drivers 
serving New York City. “As a company whose success is built on a 
foundation of hard work by immigrant workers, Uber can and should do 
better to stand up for immigrants and their workers.”

Uber has set aside $3 million for a legal-defense fund to support 
drivers, offering help with translation services and round-the-clock 
telephone access to legal aid.

For Mr. Kalanick, the moment was especially fraught. Other corporate 
chiefs, including Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX, and Mary Barra of 
General Motors, are also on the president’s economic advisory team. Mr. 
Musk said on Twitter this week that the group of economic advisers 
planned to come to some sort of “consensus” on immigration, and to 
influence Mr. Trump by engaging directly with him rather than cutting 
off ties completely.

“Travis and the other C.E.O.s are on that (presidential) board for one 
simple reason: To advance their business interests,” said Dan 
O’Sullivan, a writer from the Chicago area who helped to spread the 
#DeleteUber campaign on social media.

Internally, Uber staff members also began piling on the pressure. 
According to nearly a dozen current and former Uber engineers and 
product managers who attended or were briefed on the Tuesday all-hands 
meeting, employees said they were concerned that Mr. Kalanick’s 
willingness to work with Mr. Trump after the immigration order would 
color Uber as a soulless company that cared only about its bottom line.

Some told Mr. Kalanick that they had suffered a personal cost — a 
stigma, they said — of working at Uber. One staff member asked him to 
present the benefits of working at Uber that could outweigh that 
personal cost.

Mr. Kalanick replied that he believed that change could be best effected 
through engagement, and through the work they did every single day.

Many employees were not satisfied with his answer. On Wednesday, Uber 
staff members followed up by circulating a 25-page Google document 
titled “Letters to Travis” to tell the chief executive how and why his 
willingness to engage with the administration had affected them.

By Thursday morning, Mr. Kalanick had reversed his position on engaging 
with Mr. Trump. His participation in the economic advisory council had 
created what he called a “perception-reality gap between who people 
think we are, and who we actually are.”

In his email to employees, he said his participation was being 
interpreted as a sign that he had endorsed the president and the 
administration’s agenda. In fact, Mr. Kalanick said, the immigration 
order was hurting many people across America.

“Immigration and openness to refugees is an important part of our 
country’s success and quite honestly to Uber’s,” he wrote.

Mr. Kalanick said he had spoken briefly with Mr. Trump to let him know 
he was withdrawing from the advisory council.

“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,” Mr. Kalanick wrote.

The full text of Mr. Kalanick’s email to employees is below:

Dear Team,

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.

Travis



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