Google Fires 28 Workers for Protesting Cloud Deal With Israel

Google fired twenty-eight employees Wednesday after they participated in protests against Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion cloud contract with Israel’s government that also includes Amazon.

Workers at both companies have claimed the deal makes advanced technology available to Israel’s security apparatus that could contribute to the killing or harm of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. The Intercept and Time have reported that Project Nimbus provides services that can be tapped by the Israel Defence Forces.

The twenty-eight firings, confirmed by Google, come hours after nine employees were detained by police late Tuesday for sit-in protests in the office of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian in Sunnyvale, California, and a company office in New York. All nine of those workers were fired, in addition to nineteen other protest participants.

Google spokesperson Anna Kowalczyk said in a statement that the employees were terminated after internal investigation” concluded they were guilty of “physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities.” She added that “after refusing multiple requests to leave the premises, law enforcement was engaged to remove them to ensure office safety.” The Nimbus contract is “not directed” at classified or military work, she said.

Tuesday’s action against Project Nimbus comes after the reported death toll from the IDF’s offensive on Hamas in Gaza climbed to more than 34,000 Palestinians. The military offensive began after Hamas killed about 1,100 Israelis on October 7.

The sit-ins at Google were accompanied by protests of more than 100 people—including many Google workers—outside company offices in New York, Sunnyvale, and Seattle. Google’s Kowalczyk characterized the participation by employees as “a small number.”

Google’s workforce comprises the vast majority of employees of parent Alphabet, which reported a headcount of more than 180,000 at the end of 2023. Several protesters at Google’s New York office told WIRED they have support within the company beyond those who directly participated in Tuesday’s protest.

Jane Chung, a spokesperson for No Tech for Apartheid—the coalition of tech workers and Muslim- and Jewish-led activist groups MPower Change and Jewish Voice for Peace that organized the protests—says that some workers who were fired were involved in much less provocative action than those who occupied offices.

Some, she said, had simply attended an outdoor protest and taken a t-shirt handed out by organizers. Others were “flyering outside, standing near the protesters for safety.”

Zelda Montes, a now-former YouTube software engineer who says they were arrested after occupying Google’s New York office for more than ten hours, accuses the company of breaching US legal protections for workers.

“It’s so clear that Google is engaging in illegal behavior to deter our labor organizing by retaliating against workers who weren’t arrested,” Montes says. “I’m disappointed at just how evil Google can be, but not surprised—they’re more outraged by employees peacefully sitting in, than at how their technology is murdering people.”

Kowalczyk of Google said that the Nimbus contract is “not directed” at “workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services.”

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