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Uber employees petition for former CEO Travis Kalanick's return

The majority of Uber’s investors may have wanted its co-founder and chief executive, Travis Kalanick, out, but some employees of the ride-hailing company are already calling for his return.

In a petition that began circulating within Uber on Wednesday, employees called for Uber’s board of directors to reinstate Kalanick, who resigned Tuesday evening following pressure from investors and months of scandals.

“Yes, Travis is flawed, as we all are,” the petition reads. “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."

The petition calls for Kalanick’s return in an operational role.

News site Axios reported Thursday that some 1,000 employees had signed the petition. Uber has around 12,000 non-driver employees.

Uber declined to comment on the petition, but a person familiar with the matter confirmed that it started circulating Wednesday, and that the company’s management has not yet addressed it.

Kalanick was a polarizing chief executive, seen as both a brilliant visionary who led the company to dominance and the source of a toxic culture outlined in two independent investigations into the company.

His departure was orchestrated by investors who did not believe he had the chops to turn the company around after a relentless spate of controversies.

The company’s internal troubles had also spilled out into the public, and a recent survey of Uber passengers conducted by media and technology company Morning Consult found that of around 1,700 surveyed participants, 57% were aware of claims of bullying, sexism, and sexism harassment at the company.

Such awareness of a company’s internal problems is “pretty high,” especially for service used by 20% to 30% of the U.S. population, according to Jeff Cartwright, a spokesman for Morning Consult. By comparison, a nationwide topic, such as the Affordable Care Act, records around 70% awareness.

Of those surveyed, 13% said they had stopped using the Uber app altogether because of the scandals. Among customers who had stopped using the app, 28% said firing the CEO would bring them back.

“Travis wasn’t very well known before this,” said Cartwright, who noted that aside from a few exceptions, such as Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg, most tech executives aren’t household names.

“But he became front and center of Uber in the past few months. A few months ago people didn’t know who he was. Now, he’s identified as the problem,” Cartwright said.

Still, Kalanick continues to have supporters both inside and outside of Uber.

Bradley Tusk, co-founder of Tusk Ventures and an early investor in Uber, said Wednesday he worried that the board of directors may have “solved one problem but created another” in pressuring Kalanick to resign.

Tusk believes Kalanick is a visionary and that, instead of getting rid of him, the board should have hired others to help with his shortcomings.

“Whether it’s autonomous vehicles, trucking, flying cars, that’s the stuff that I think you really need Travis for,” Tusk said.

In addressing Kalanick's departure, the company’s top leaders — 14 of whom now share duties running the place — said they understood that emotions were high and that Kalanick did not make his decision lightly.

“Travis gave more to this company than anyone,” they said in a statement sent to employees. “He had a deep and meaningful impact on countless numbers of people at Uber and around the world, and for that, we will forever be grateful."

A copy of the petition, obtained by Axios and independently verified, can be viewed below.

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Board of Directors --

I'm writing to you today ahead of your scheduled meeting to share the thoughts of over 1,100 full-time Uber employees (and counting) who vehemently disagree with Travis' resignation as CEO and the associated pressure placed on him to do so by investors and board members alike.

In less than 12 hours, these employees have expressed their belief that Travis should return to Uber in an operational role. This magnitude of a response was unexpected and should not be ignored. What started as simple note to my closest co-workers turned into a petition spanning hundreds of offices and teams, and has yet to be seen by a majority of employees.

As the folks who've actually worked alongside Travis for years to help create Uber from nothing, we are extremely disappointed by the short-sightedness and pure self-interest demonstrated by those who are supposed to protect the long-term interests of our company.

Yes, Travis is flawed, as we all are. 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.

We await your response and look forward to Travis' return in an operational role.

tracey.lien@latimes.com

Twitter: @traceylien

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