Five protesters inside a Google exec's office
Protesters took over Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian's office in Sunnyvale on April 16, 2024. (Photo/No Tech for Apartheid via X)

Google fires 28 workers after sit-in protest against Israel cloud contract

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Google has fired 28 employees who participated in Tuesday’s sit-in protest to oppose the company’s ties with Israel, according to an internal memo obtained by tech news website the Verge the following day.

Protesters in Sunnyvale occupied the office of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian for 10 hours, displaying banners saying “No more genocide for profit” and “No cloud for apartheid” in reference to Project Nimbus, a cloud computing contract with Israel.

Five people were arrested in Sunnyvale and four at a similar sit-in at Google’s offices in New York City.

This was “unacceptable, extremely disruptive and made co-workers feel threatened,” Chris Rackow, Google’s head of global security, wrote in the memo sent to all employees.

“If you’re one of the few who are tempted to think we’re going to overlook conduct that violates our policies, think again,” Rackow continued. “The company takes this extremely seriously, and we will continue to apply our longstanding policies to take action against disruptive behavior — up to and including termination.”

No Tech for Apartheid, one of the organizing groups, said in statement published Wednesday night on Medium that some of the workers who were fired “did not directly participate” in Tuesday’s protest. However, the memo from Rackow said that the 28 fired employees were “found to be involved” and that the company was continuing to investigate.

Project Nimbus is a $1.2 billion cloud computing contract shared jointly by Google and Amazon for cloud storage used across multiple Israeli government ministries.

Google spokesperson Bailey Tomson said in a statement to J. that Nimbus “is not directed at highly sensitive, classified, or military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services.” However, the Israeli Finance Ministry has previously said that the technology would be an “all-encompassing cloud solution” to the government including to the “defense establishment,” Haaretz reported three years ago.

In August 2023, protesters targeted a three-day Google Cloud Next conference. In September 2022, dozens of tech workers marched to Google’s San Francisco offices, then five blocks to Amazon’s offices, to protest Nimbus.

Alex Heath, deputy editor at the Verge who shared the internal memo on social media and publishes a newsletter about the inner workings of the tech industry, reacted to firings in a social media post.

“I’m unaware of another tech co like Google firing this many people in connection with a protest,” Heath wrote. “28 at once is a lot.”

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.