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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Columns

Uber CEO leaves president’s business council, loses vital line of communication


In the midst of protests surrounding President Donald Trump’s travel ban last week, Uber received severe backlash. During the protest, the Taxi Alliance shut down their services for an hour and joined the protest at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

The resistance sparked when Uber tweeted that they would turn off surge pricing during this time to be able to get people to and from the airport. This led to the creation of the #deleteUber hashtag, and more than 200,000 people deleted the app.

Many were outraged because they believed the company was trying to profit from the situation. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick also received some heat over his participation in Trump’s business advisory council.

In an email to employees, Kalanick said that he disagreed with the ban and claimed that Uber would compensate affected employees. He also said that Uber would use a $3 million fund to help employees gain access to legal counsel.

Kalanick defended his position on the council, stating, “We partner around the world optimistically in the belief that by speaking up and engaging we can make a difference… I understand that many people internally and externally may not agree with that decision, and that’s OK. It’s the magic of living in America that people are free to disagree.

However, a few days later, Kalanick announced he would leave the business advisory council. This didn’t come as a huge surprise as many people were calling for Kalanick to step down from the position, and it seemed that for the sake of Uber he decided to do so.

In a statement, Kalanick said, “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.”  

While it’s easy to understand how people could misinterpret Uber’s surge price tweet to believe they were trying to make profits off the protest, I don’t think leaving people stranded at the airport was necessary.

Uber wasn’t only picking people up from the airport, it was also dropping people off. People who wanted to engage in the protest did so, and if people needed to leave the airport, that didn’t undermine the protest. The protest did an incredible job of raising awareness.

The protests across the U.S. proved that people would not sit idle when unjust actions are implemented.

Kalanick also should not have left the council. It’s understandable why it happened, but Kalanick had a great opportunity to create real dialogue about the issues surrounding this ban, and much more.

Because he dropped out of the council, he can no longer advise President Trump. Being on the council gave Kalanick, along with the others involved, a direct line to President Trump. This could have been valuable in leading to actual change.

However, if people who do advocate for the interest of the American people don’t engage in such interactions, how do we expect change? As our country becomes more divided, it seems like the chance of having actual conversations on key issues is decreasing.

Instead of discouraging participation, people should engage in meaningful discussions in order to understand others and build a better society.

Fariha Jawed is an accounting and political science junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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