Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber, has notified Donald Trump that he will no longer be part of his business advisory group. Uber has gotten a lot of negative attention this week as a result of how it responded to the administration’s hastily enacted immigrant ban. When NYC taxi drivers declared they would refuse to pick up passengers for one hour at JFK airport to support public protests against the ban, Uber drivers swept in to take their place, a move that many associated with the actions of strikebreakers.
A #DeleteUber movement immediately formed on social media asking people to remove the Uber app from their smart phones and do business with rival ride sharing service Lyft instead. Lyft has promised to donate $1 million to the ACLU over the next 4 years, a move that has met with enthusiastic approval from the social media crowd.
“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,” Kalanick said in an e-mail to Uber drivers. “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. Immigration and openness to refugees is an important part of our country’s success and quite honestly to Uber’s.”
“This is an important show of solidarity with the immigrant drivers who helped build Uber,” said Jim Conigliaro, founder of an Independent Drivers Guild, which claims to represent more than 40,000 Uber drivers in New York City. “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.”
Shortly after Kalanick made his announcement, Elon Musk issued his own statement. “In December, I agreed to join the Presidential Advisory forum to provide feedback on issues that I think are important for our country and the world. In tomorrow’s meeting, I and others will express our objections to the recent executive order on immigration and offer suggestions for changes to the policy.
“Advisory councils simply provide advice and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration. My goals are to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy and to help make humanity a multi-planet civilisation, a consequence of which will be the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs and a more inspiring future for all.
“I understand the perspective of those who object to my attending this meeting, but I believe at this time that engaging on critical issues will on balance serve the greater good.”
There are reports that a backlash against Musk and Tesla has occurred, with some people cancelling their reservation for the upcoming Tesla Model 3 in protest and giving Elon his lumps on Twitter. Musk is in the crosshairs. On one hand, the companies he leads benefit from government incentives that encourage people to buy an electric car and from government space program contracts. He can ill afford to make an enemy of the bombast Trump. On the other hand, Tesla, SolarCity, and SpaceX are American companies building factories and products in America — something Trump firmly supports.
Musk is committed to ending the use of fossil fuels. Trump wants America to burn more coal. Musk is a great believer in science. Trump has launched an assault on all science initiatives supported by the US government. Perhaps Musk should be given more credit. It takes courage to stand up to a bully, especially one as powerful as Donald Trump, who could certainly benefit from input from a sane, rational adult.
We’ll see how this shakes out for Musk and the country. How long will he be able to tolerate Trump’s boorish and anti-intellectual style? And if Musk winds up stepping away from Trump, how will that impact both men? Break out the popcorn. This could be an epic battle between two strong willed titans. Perhaps in coming years, Hollywood will make a movie about it.