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.
“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 employees Thursday. “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.”
His resignation came on the eve of the first meeting of the group at the White House. Trump’s business advisory council is led by Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and chief executive of the private equity group Blackstone. Other members include Tesla chief Elon Musk and executives from Wal-Mart, Pepsi and Walt Disney.
Kalanick’s about-face is a direct result of growing criticism of his insistence on engaging with Trump after the executive order banning refugees and others from seven Muslim-majority countries.
In recent days, the ride-hailing company was confronted by a growing number of boycotts that were taking a toll on its business.
The backlash illustrated the difficult path ahead for technology executives in working with Trump in a bitterly divisive political climate. Protests were scheduled to take place at Uber offices around the country on Thursday.
An online petition sponsored by the Independent Drivers Guild, which represents nearly 50,000 Uber drivers in New York City, had called for Kalanick to resign from the advisory council, saying Uber was built on a “foundation of hard work by immigrant workers.”
“This is an important show of solidarity with the immigrant drivers who helped build Uber and number over 40,000 in New York City alone,” Jim Conigliaro, Jr., founder of The Independent Drivers Guild, said in a statement. “We are heartened that Uber has listened to the drivers and the community on this important issue that is so integral to the promise of the American dream.”
Kalanick wrote in an email to employees that “immigration and openness to refugees is an important part of our country’s success and quite honestly to Uber’s.”
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,” he wrote.
“Any CEO who stays on the council is placing access to power over people’s lives, they are putting money over this country’s future,” Rashad Robinson, executive director of the racial justice organization Color of Change, said in a statement. “In this moment in our nation, we will not forget those who remained silent and we will hold special contempt for those who used their access and power for profit.”
But none of the other executives have said they will step down from the advisory council.