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Uber drivers have their say about CEO Travis Kalanick’s resignation

An Uber car in San Francisco in 2016.
(David Butow / Los Angeles Times)

Former Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick is a controversial figure, even among drivers for the ride-hailing company.

Though the San Francisco firm has put money in the wallets of the drivers who offer rides on its platform, many drivers opposed Kalanick’s decisions and Uber’s leadership under his watch.

Some drivers have fought in court to be treated as employees rather than independent contractors, a classification that they say deprives them of benefits to which they are legally entitled. Some have complained of being shortchanged by the technology start-up with the world’s highest private market valuation. Some have protested the company’s refusal to allow tipping on its app (Uber relented on this front on Tuesday, offering passengers for the first time the ability to tip.)

Issues like these did not make Kalanick a popular figure among drivers — especially after a video emerged in which the Uber co-founder berated a driver who blamed Kalanick and the company for his financial woes.

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Here’s how a sample of Uber drivers in Los Angeles are reacting to Kalanick’s departure:

It was time for him to go.

Moses, Uber driver

Moses, an Uber driver for two years who declined to give his last name, sees Kalanick’s resignation as “a step in the right direction.”

“It was time for him to go. The guy they’ll replace him with will probably have just as many problems as he did,” the driver said. “But regardless of whether things will get better for drivers, Kalanick needed to go.”

The drivers should just be happy Uber exists.

Joseph Kessler, Uber driver

Joseph Kessler, who’s been driving with Uber for three months, sees Kalanick’s resignation at a public relations move more than a real shift in company policy.

“Whatever little things they’re doing, it’s not going to make a difference,” said Kessler. “They’re adding tips now, but the only people who will use it are the people who were already tipping.”

But he finds fault with drivers, too, especially those complaining about Kalanick’s leadership.

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“When you see people complaining, they’re weak. The drivers should just be happy Uber exists.”

Whoever’s in charge won’t affect my life in any major way.

Gregor Torosian, Uber driver

Gregor Torosian doesn’t feel enough of a connection with Uber’s corporate arm to believe Kalanick’s resignation will affect him.

“Last week, a phone number showed up on the app for us to call and give feedback, but before that, I had no contact with them,” Torosian said.

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Despite the company’s efforts to be more communicative, Torosian said he feels disconnected from corporate moves.

“Whoever’s in charge won’t affect my life in any major way. It’s all inside the kitchen,” Torosian said.

When you’re making that much money, you gotta say and do the right things.

Gregory Branch, Uber driver

Gregory Branch, who has driven for Uber for more than a year, saw the writing on the wall for Kalanick.

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“He was too arrogant in the way he went about things,” Branch said. “You can’t get in arguments with drivers off the cuff and expect to get away with it. When you’re making that much money, you gotta say and do the right things.”

Branch’s PSA for other start-up founders: “Keep your mouth shut and collect your paycheck.”

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