Google workers stage sit-ins to protest company’s work with Israel

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SAN FRANCISCO — A group of Google employees staged sit-ins at two of the company’s offices Tuesday to protest the tech giant’s work with the Israeli government, escalating the conflict inside tech companies over the war in Gaza and whether U.S. companies should sell their technology to Israel.

Protesters at Google’s Sunnyvale, Calif., offices entered the workspace of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian on Tuesday morning and have promised to stay there until the company meets their demand that Google pull out of a $1.2 billion contract it shares with Amazon to provide cloud services and data centers to the Israeli government. Another group of protesters is sitting-in in a common space at one of the company’s New York City offices, according to Zelda Montes, one of the workers participating in the protest. Police were on their way to the Sunnyvale office around 10:45 a.m. in California, a spokesperson for the protesters said.

Some workers and outside activists have opposed the contract, known as Nimbus, since it was signed in 2021. But protests have ramped up over the past seven months as Israeli forces continue to bombard the Gaza Strip, following Hamas’s Oct. 7 cross-border attack on Israel. Workers have circulated internal emails, protested outside company offices and staged a “die-in” outside one of Google’s buildings in San Francisco in December, blocking traffic on a busy downtown street.

The protests were staged a day after pro-Palestinian activists blocked highways, bridges and the entrances to airports across the United States in a coordinated series of demonstrations against Israel’s invasion of Gaza and U.S. military support for the country.

In early March, Google fired a worker who stood up and protested during a speech by Google’s top executive in Israel at a conference in New York. Montes, who works as a software engineer at Google-owned YouTube, acknowledged that they may be fired, too.

“We often have the privilege of looking the other way and not to have to think about the impact of our work on the world,” Montes said. “I have been waiting for months for people to be in the same position as me and be ready to put their job on the line.”

The contract that the workers are protesting was signed with the Israeli government as a whole. But when it was initially signed, Israeli officials told reporters that the terms of the deal prohibit Google and Amazon from denying services to specific parts of the government, raising concerns among some tech employees that their work could be used for military purposes.

Last week, Time Magazine reported that Google has been negotiating with Israel’s Defense Ministry in recent weeks.

“It’s deplorable that Google has been selling this technology to the Israeli government and military and lying to its employees about it,” Montes said, referring to the Time Magazine report.

A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon employees involved in anti-Nimbus organizing also attended rallies on Tuesday, organizers said. Employees who oppose the contract with Israel have been clashing with their Tel Aviv-based co-workers since the conflict began in October, The Washington Post has previously reported.

At an Amazon shareholder meeting in May, anti-Nimbus Amazon employees said they will support a resolution requesting a third-party investigative report on whether “customers’ use of its products and services with surveillance, computer vision, or cloud storage capabilities contributes to human rights violations or violates international humanitarian law.”

An Amazon spokesperson did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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