Google has terminated approximately 20 additional employees who participated in protests against the tech giant’s cloud computing contract with the Israeli government.

This latest round of firings brings the total number of dismissed workers to more than 50 within the past week, as confirmed by an activist group representing the employees.

Following the April 16 demonstrations, which included sit-ins at Google’s offices in New York City and Sunnyvale, Calif., a company spokesperson acknowledged the terminations, stating they were a result of an ongoing investigation into the protests.

The dismissals come in the wake of a companywide memo from CEO Sundar Pichai, where he cautioned employees against using Google as a platform for personal agendas or engaging in divisive political debates. Pichai emphasised maintaining focus on work-related matters within the company.

“The corporation is attempting to quash dissent, silence its workers, and reassert its power over them,” said Jane Chung, a spokesperson for No Tech for Apartheid, a group opposing Google’s and Amazon’s contracts with the Israeli government since 2021.

A broader trend of opposition

The protests at Google are part of a broader trend of opposition to U.S. government and corporate collaborations with the Israeli government and military. Recent days have seen pro-Palestinian demonstrations at Yale and Columbia universities, resulting in arrests and sparking further protests at other colleges nationwide.

Preceding the Google sit-ins, activists staged blockades across highways, bridges, and airport entrances across the United States in protest against the conflict in Gaza.

The rift between Google management and terminated employees has escalated into a public dispute, with Google claiming each fired worker actively disrupted office operations. However, workers contest these allegations, arguing that some of those terminated did not even enter Google’s premises on the day of the coordinated protests.

Scale of firings at Google is unprecedented

While Google has previously fired individuals for public criticism, the scale of these recent terminations is unprecedented. For years, Google fostered a reputation as a company with a liberal office culture, encouraging open discussion and collaboration among employees. However, Pichai’s recent memo underscored that while openness is valued, it must remain focused on work-related topics.

“We have a culture of vibrant, open discussion that enables us to create amazing products and turn great ideas into action,” Pichai stated in the memo posted online by the company. “But ultimately we are a workplace, and our policies and expectations are clear: this is a business.”

The ongoing conflict between Google and its employees reflects broader tensions within the tech industry concerning the balance between corporate interests and social activism in the workplace.

 

 

 

 

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.