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regular-article-logo Monday, 27 May 2024

Google fires 28 employees involved in protest of Israeli cloud contract

'Physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies, and completely unacceptable behavior,' a Google spokesperson said in a statement

Nico Grant San Francisco Published 18.04.24, 01:35 PM
Representational image.

Representational image. File

Google on Wednesday fired 28 workers after dozens of employees participated in sit-ins at the company’s New York and Sunnyvale, California, offices to protest the company’s cloud computing contract with the Israeli government.

A day earlier, nine employees were arrested on charges of trespassing at the two offices.

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“Physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies, and completely unacceptable behavior,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Years before the dismissals, tensions had been simmering between the company’s management and some activist employees over Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion Google and Amazon deal to supply the Israeli government with cloud services, such as artificial intelligence.

That discord had deepened since the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip began in October. Google recently fired an employee who disrupted an Israeli technology conference in New York. And the company is even planning to make changes to a corporate forum because employees were bickering about the conflict.

Google said it would continue to investigate the Tuesday protests. In Sunnyvale, employees refused to leave the office of Thomas Kurian, the CEO of Google Cloud.

Google employees affiliated with the group that organized the sit-ins, called No Tech For Apartheid, said in a statement that the firings were “a flagrant act of retaliation.”

“Google workers have the right to peacefully protest about terms and conditions of our labor,” the employees said. They added that some of the employees Google fired had not participated in the sit-ins.

The Nimbus contract, announced in 2021, was to supply various Israeli government ministries with cloud software. Since the contract’s inception, some Google employees have expressed concern that the company was aiding Israel’s military.

A Google spokesperson said that Nimbus “is not directed at highly sensitive, classified, or military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services.”

In 2018, Google workers successfully pushed the company to end a deal with the U.S. Defense Department. Called Project Maven, it would have helped the military analyze drone videos.

Employees who have taken part in Nimbus activism said in their statement that they would continue protesting “until the company drops Project Nimbus.”

The New York Times News Service

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