Mondoweiss / March 18, 2022
A Google employee in California says she faced retaliation after criticizing Project Nimbus.
A Google employee says she was relocated to Brazil for calling on the company to terminate its contract with the Israeli government.
This week the Los Angeles Times reported on the case of Ariel Koren, a product marketing manager at Google for Education. Koren, who was working at the tech giant’s Mountain View, California headquarters, has consistently criticized her employer over Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion contract involving Google, Amazon Web Services, and Israel. The project helps to provide cloud services for the country’s military and government.
In October 2021 Koren helped draft a public letter, that was signed by hundreds of Google and Amazon workers, condemning the partnership. “We cannot look the other way, as the products we build are used to deny Palestinians their basic rights, force Palestinians out of their homes and attack Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – actions that have prompted war crime investigations by the international criminal court,” it reads. “We envision a future where technology brings people together and makes life better for everyone. To build that brighter future, the companies we work for need to stop contracting with any and all militarized organizations in the US and beyond.”
Koren told the paper that the company came to her in November with an ultimatum: she would have to relocate to Google’s office in Sao Paulo, Brazil or be fired. According to Koren her manager later admitted that he didn’t expect her to move to Brazil, which indicates that Google was trying to push her out of the company with the offer. “It was just so outlandish. The whole thing was completely wild,” she said.
Koren filed a complaint with Google’s human resources department and unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Google claims that they’ve already investigated the situation and found no evidence of retaliation. Koren is currently still working in California and it remains unclear whether she will be forced to move.
A petition supporting Koren has already been signed by over 12,000 people. “Workers have the right to speak up about how their labor is used without fear of losing their jobs — especially when working on unethical contracts that violate human rights,” it reads. “We support the hundreds of Google workers who have already signed a petition of support for Ariel, and we demand that Google respect workers who stand up for human rights — starting with ensuring that Ariel remains in her position.”
Another petition, put together by Koren’s colleagues, has been signed by over 500 Google workers. “Sadly, Ariel’s case is consistent with Google’s dangerous track record of worker retaliation that has made mainstream headlines in the past few years – and specifically against those speaking out against contracts that enable state violence against marginalized people,” it reads.
Last Fall, after employees released the letter condemning Project Nimbus, a coalition of legal organizations (including Palestine Legal, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Center for Constitutional Rights) sent Google a letter cautioning the company against unlawful worker retaliation. “The undersigned civil rights organizations urge you to respect the political and national origin expression of your employees and refrain from taking any adverse actions against them,” it read. “Civil society organizations, progressive legal groups, and the media included, are closely monitoring the situation in
your workplace to ensure that the civil rights of your employees, Palestinian and otherwise, are respected.”
Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss