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HomeTechnologyGoogle fired 28 workers who protested its Nimbus contract with Israel

Google fired 28 workers who protested its Nimbus contract with Israel

SAN FRANCISCO — Google fired 28 employees on Wednesday who were involved in a protest against a contract with the Israeli government the cloud-computing giant shares with its competitor, Amazon.

The firings came after nine employees were arrested Tuesday while participating in sit-in protests at Google offices in Sunnyvale, Calif., and New York City. The workers were held for a few hours before being released, employees said.

The employees, part of a group called No Tech for Apartheid, have been writing letters and staging protests against Google’s deal to sell technology to Israel since 2021. The tension over the cloud-computing contract, known as Nimbus, among employees at Google and Amazon has increased since the Israel-Gaza war began in October. The project’s critics say it will bolster the Israeli government’s surveillance of Palestinians and lead to further displacement and discrimination.

In an email statement, a Google spokesperson said the workers were fired for “physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities,” which is “a clear violation of our policies, and completely unacceptable behavior.”

“After refusing multiple requests to leave the premises, law enforcement was engaged to remove them to ensure office safety,” the email said. “We have so far concluded individual investigations that resulted in the termination of employment for 28 employees, and will continue to investigate and take action as needed.”

The 28 fired employees, who were locked out of their work devices Tuesday evening and learned of their termination over email that morning, said they were shocked and angered by the company’s decision.

“I’m furious,” said one of the fired employees who helped organize the sit-in but didn’t directly participate. “This is a wildly disproportionate response to workers standing up for morality and for holding Google accountable for its own promises. Firing people associated with an event they don’t like — it’s unbelievable.”

“This is a huge escalation and a change in how Google has responded to worker criticisms,” added the employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for legal reasons.

The employee said members of the No Tech for Apartheid group have spoken with a lawyer about bringing charges against Google for allegedly violating labor law.

During the sit-in at Google’s headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif., on Tuesday, workers occupied the office of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian. But employees who participated in the action, videos of which were posted to Instagram, denied that they impeded anyone else at Google from working.

“Even the workers who were participating in a peaceful sit-in and refusing to leave did not damage property or threaten other workers,” Jane Chung, a spokesperson for No Tech for Apartheid, said in an email. “Instead they received an overwhelmingly positive response and shows of support.”

Amazon also holds a Nimbus contract with Israel, and Amazon employees participated in the No Tech for Apartheid actions on Tuesday, but there have been no reports of Amazon workers being arrested or fired. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.

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