There is a tricky calculus facing many Silicon Valley corporate execs who try to work with the new administration. On one hand, many tech executives have openly tried to engage with President Trump, a path that is typically good for business. Yet, Trump’s immigration order has been so unpopular with so many tech workers — many of whom are immigrants themselves and are advocates for globalization, that they are now exerting pressure on their chief executives to push back forcefully against the administration.
Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber was holding a regularly scheduled all-hands meeting on Tuesday at the ride-hailing company’s San Francisco headquarters when he faced question after question from upset employees, many of whom are immigrants. He had joined Mr. Trump’s economic advisory council in December. After the signing of the immigration order against refugees and seven Muslim-majority countries, many staff members wondered why their company CEO 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, Kalanick gave his answer, by stepping down from 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.
The tension over continuing to work with President 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. On Saturday, Kalanick had publicly said in a blog post that the best route forward was to have “a seat at the table.” “We partner around the world optimistically in the belief that by speaking up and engaging we can make a difference,” he added.
Then, more than 200,000 customers had deleted their accounts.
As if things could get more dismal, Uber rivals had seized the moment to attack the company and boost their own businesses. 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. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance also 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.
“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.”
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