Travis Kalanick’s Loyalists Are Petitioning Uber to Let Him Return

Co-founder of Uber Travis Kalanick.

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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick may have been pressured into resigning on Tuesday after major investors demanded he do so, but now some of his former employees are demanding he remain in place in an “operational role.” Michael York, a product manager at Uber, sent around an email to staff on Wednesday with a petition for company employees to sign, as multiple outlets have reported. The email received more than 1,100 responses in favor of bringing back Kalanick, which amounts to about 10 percent of the company’s employees. Their argument: Yeah, he had problems—but he was also a unique inspiration.

Kalanick’s ouster followed an onslaught of reports of a sexist, dehumanizing culture at the company and increasing criticism from Uber users upset with company policies and action. But York and other Uber employees are advancing a different narrative, summed up in the note: “Uber is TK and TK is Uber.” (Kalanick will remain on Uber’s board.)

In the letter that the dissenting employees wrote back to the board of directors, they report being “disappointed by the short-sightedness and pure self-interest demonstrated by those who are supposed to protect the long-term interests of our company,” according to Axios, which obtained the letter.

“Yes, Travis is flawed, as we all are,” write the employees. “But his passion, vision, and dedication to Uber are simply unmatched. We would not be here today without him, and believe he can evolve into the leader we need. He is critical to our future success.”

In his email, York writes that Kalanick inspired him to drop out of college at age 18 and noted that “Nearly everyone I’ve spoken with who’s met him has an amazing story to tell about how Travis motivated them to to do their best work.”

A statement that Uber’s management released to employees following his resignation acknowledged that “as you’d expect, the emotions around Travis’ decision are intense.” They’re also evidently quite divided. On Twitter, the New York Times’ Mike Isaac pointed out that the petition was started by a worker who was “a favorite of travis.”

But according to Isaac—who broke the news of Kalanick’s resignation—Uber employees are far from unified in their sentiment. A founder-CEO with significant control over a company whose business tactics were of a piece with his “always be hustlin’ ” ethos, Kalanick certainly had acolytes. But he also oversaw the startup that led Susan Fowler to write her nightmarish account. No wonder, as Isaac points out, that plenty of other Uber employees are either jumping ship—or hoping to sail forward, with someone other than Kalanick at the helm.