Google fires more workers after CEO says workplace isn’t for politics

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SAN FRANCISCO — Google fired about 20 more workers it said participated in protests denouncing the company’s cloud computing deal with the Israeli government, bringing the total number of workers fired in the past week over the issue to more than 50, according to the activist group representing the workers.

A spokesperson for Google confirmed it had fired more workers after continuing its investigation into the April 16 protests, which included sit-ins at Google’s offices in New York City and Sunnyvale, Calif.

The firings come several days after chief executive Sundar Pichai told employees in a companywide memo that they should not use the company as a “personal platform” or “fight over disruptive issues or debate politics.”

“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 that has protested Google’s and Amazon’s contracts with the Israeli government since 2021.

On April 22, dozens were arrested at New York University and Yale as tensions flared again on campuses over the Israel-Gaza war. (Video: Julie Yoon/The Washington Post)

The protests at Google are among a wave of opposition to the U.S. government and corporations working with the Israeli government and military. Pro-Palestinian protesters have been arrested in recent days at Yale and Columbia universities, spurring accusations of heavy-handedness by university officials and inspiring another wave of demonstrations at other colleges around the country. The day before the Google sit-ins, activists blocked highways, bridges and airport entrances across the United States to protest the war in Gaza.

At Google, the situation has become a public fight between Google managers and the fired employees. Google says that each worker it fired actively disrupted its offices, while the workers dispute the claims, saying some of those fired did not even enter the company’s office on the day of coordinated demonstrations against the company.

Google has fired workers in the past who publicly criticized the company, but it has not fired this many people at once. For years, Google had a reputation as the most free and open among the Big Tech companies in terms of office culture and collaboration. The company celebrated an internal culture in which employees knew what other teams were working on and were encouraged to question the decisions of leaders.

In his memo to workers, Pichai said the company’s openness was a strength but applied to work topics, not politics.

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

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