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February 10th, 2017 by


Uber has recently been heavily criticised for its apparent involvement in the controversial travel ban, instated by US President Donald Trump. #deleteuber started trending on social media soon after the ban was signed. The travel ban has halted the entry of immigrants and refugees from seven nations into the US. Refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen were suspended from entering the US for 120 days. Syrian citizens are currently banned indefinitely.

Protests Against Trump

The move caused ripples of outcry worldwide. Protests broke out almost instantly with company heads, as well as country leaders, condemning the move. As the international community reeled from the implications of the ban, many news sources claimed that it was an anti-Muslim move. The international press re-named it as the Muslim Ban and social media erupted in shock. It was on the same day of the signing of the bill that companies, like Uber, were dragged into the fray. To understand why, we need to look into the history of the firms involvement.

In December 2016, news broke that Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick would be joining an advisory panel to US President Donald Trump. He, together with Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, were confirmed to be sitting on the newly formed Strategic and Policy Forum. The forum, whose purpose is to provide economic advice to the President, includes the likes of Pepsico CEO, Indra Nooyi, and Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman. The panel will be called upon to share their specific expertise with the President, and assist him in his plans to create more jobs in the US.

Although his participation in the panel was widely condemned by customers, Kalanick’s history with Trump has never been positive. He, together with Musk, were open supporters of the Democrat leader, Hilary Clinton. Kalanick even remarked in 2015 that he would move to China should Trump win. His inclusion in the council was, therefore, highly criticised as being hypocritical.

Banner Image 01  - #deleteuber Lost The Company 200 000 Subscribers

#deleteuber

On the day of the signing in of the travel ban, customers reacted in shock when the company suspended surge-charging on trips to JFK Airport. The move was interpreted by many as an endorsement of the policy. Uber was accused of trying to cash in on the controversy. As the New York Taxi Workers Alliance suspended its services on the day to protest the move.

Over 200 000 customers deleted their accounts as a direct result of the move, and social media flared up with #deleteuber comments. Although this is a mere dent in the companies multi-million customer base, Kalanick is painfully aware of its impact on the brand. In order to restore brand reputation, Kalanick has since resigned from the council. Uber has also created a unique message on its platform, should a customer cancel their account. The cancellation message includes: “Uber wants to let you know that we share your views on the immigration ban. It’s unjust, wrong, and against everything we stand for as a company”.

Letter From Uber’s CEO

Kalanick also sent this letter to his employees after stepping down from the council.

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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