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Google fires 28 employees after sit-in protest over controversial Project Nimbus contract with Israel

Date 19 Apr, 2024

Writen by Paul Sawers

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Google has terminated the employment of 28 staff following a prolonged sit-in protest at the company’s Sunnyvale and New York offices.

The employees were protesting against Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion cloud computing contract inked by Google and Amazon with the Israeli government and its military three years ago. The controversial project, which reportedly also provides Israel with the full suite of Google Cloud’s artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, allegedly has strict contractual stipulations that prevent Google and Amazon from bowing to boycott pressure. This effectively means that they must continue providing services to Israel no matter what.

Conflict

Employees at Google have protested and publicly chastised the contract since 2021, but as the Israel-Palestine conflict continues to escalate in the wake of last October’s attacks by Hamas, this unrest is spilling further into the workforces of corporations deemed not only to be helping Israel, but also actively profiteering from the conflict.

While the latest rallies included demonstrations outside Google’s Sunnyvale and New York offices, as well as Amazon’s Seattle HQ, protestors went one step further by going inside the buildings, including the office of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian.

In a statement issued to TechCrunch via anti-Big Tech advocacy firm Justice Speaks, Hasan Ibraheem, a Google software engineer participating in the New York City sit-in protest, said that by providing cloud and AI infrastructure to the Israeli military, Google is “directly implicated in the genocide of the Palestinian people.”

“It’s my responsibility to do everything I can to end this contract even while Google pretends nothing is wrong,” Ibraheem said. “The idea of working for a company that directly provides infrastructure for genocide makes me sick. We’ve tried sending petitions to leadership but they’ve gone ignored. We will make sure they can’t ignore us anymore. We will make as much noise as possible. So many workers don’t know that Google has this contract with the IOF [Israel Offensive Forces]. So many don’t know that their colleagues have been facing harassment for being Muslim, Palestinian and Arab and speaking out. So many people don’t realize how complicit their own company is. It’s our job to make sure they do.”

Nine Google workers were also arrested and forcibly removed from the company’s offices — four in New York and five in Sunnyvale. A separate statement issued by Justice Speaks on behalf of the “Nimbus nine” protestors, said that they had demanded to speak with Kurian, but their request was denied.

The statement reads in full:

Last night, Google made the decision to arrest us, the company’s own workers — instead of engaging with our concerns about Project Nimbus, the company’s $1.2 billion cloud computing contract with Israel. Those of us sitting in Thomas Kurian’s office repeatedly requested to speak with the Google Cloud CEO, but our requests were denied. Throughout the past three years, since the contract’s signing, we have repeatedly attempted to engage with Google executives about Project Nimbus through company channels, including town halls, forums, petitions signed by over a thousand workers, and direct outreach from concerned workers.

Google executives have ignored our concerns about our ethical responsibility for the impact of our technology as well as the damage to our workplace health and safety caused by this contract, and the company’s internal environment of retaliation, harassment, and bullying. At every turn, instead, Google is repressing speech inside the company, and condoning harassment, intimidation, bullying, silencing, and censorship of Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim Googlers.

Workers have the right to know how their labor is being used, and to have a say in ensuring the technology they build is not used for harm. Workers also have the right to go to work without fear, anxiety, and stress due to the potential that their labor is being used to power a genocide. Google is depriving us of these basic rights, which is what led us to sit-in at offices across the country yesterday.

Meanwhile, Google continues to lie to its workers, the media, and the public. Google continues to claim, as of yesterday, that Project Nimbus is “not directed at highly sensitive, classified, or military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services.” Yet, reporting from TIME Magazine proves otherwise. Google has built custom tools for Israel’s Ministry of Defense, and has doubled down on contracting with the Israeli Occupational Forces, Israel’s military, since the start of its genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. By continuing its lies, Google is disrespecting and disregarding consumers, the media, as well as, most importantly, us — its workers.

We will not stay silent in light of Google’s bare-faced lies. Hundreds and thousands of Google workers have joined No Tech for Apartheid’s call for the company to Drop Project Nimbus. Despite Google’s attempts to silence us and disregard our concerns, we will persist. We will continue to organize and fight until Google drops Project Nimbus and stops aiding and abetting Israel’s genocide and apartheid state in Palestine.

A Google spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that 28 employees were fired and that it will “continue to investigate and take action” if needed.

“These protests were part of a longstanding campaign by a group of organizations and people who largely don’t work at Google,” the spokesperson said. “A small number of employee protesters entered and disrupted a few of our locations. Physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities 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.”

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