#WayfairWalkout over sales to migrant detention facilities at border
Published Wednesday, June 26, 2019 8:56AM EDT
Dozens of employees of the online housewares retailer Wayfair staged a walkout at the company’s Boston headquarters to protest its recent sale of bedroom furniture to a U.S. government contractor operating facilities for migrant children detained at the Mexico-United States border.
The Wayfair employees left their desks and walked to Copley Square in Boston’s Back Bay neighbourhood at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, according to a Twitter account recently created to organize the event.
Videos from the walkout show dozens of Wayfair employees and representatives from various labour groups meeting in the square, holding signs and chanting in protest.
The walkout is in response to a recent revelation by one Wayfair worker who discovered the company had accepted an order for US$200,000 worth of bedroom furniture from the government contractor BCFS, which manages migrant camps along the border.
According to a letter signed by more than 500 Wayfair employees and sent to the company’s leadership team on Friday, the furniture is destined for a new facility being opened in Carrizo Springs, Tex. that will be outfitted to detain up to 3,000 migrant children.
“The practice of detaining children and adults at our Southern border has been condemned since its inception, but since the acceleration of the practice in 2018, and the increase in death and injury that has come with that acceleration, we have seen more vocal condemnation of the practice,” the letter read.
“We, the undersigned, are writing to you from a place of concern and anger about the atrocities being committed at our Southern border.”
The detention of migrant families fleeing their homes in Central America to seek refuge in the U.S. has become a hot-button issue in recent weeks following reports of filthy, inhumane conditions in camps holding children.
The Wayfair employees called on the company’s executives, including cofounders Niraj Shah and Steve Conine, to cease all business with BCFS or similar contractors participating in the operation of migrant camps and to establish a code of ethics for the business.
“We believe that the current actions of the United States and their contractors at the Southern border do not represent an ethical business partnership Wayfair should choose to be a part of,” the letter stated.
The letter’s writers also invoked one of the company’s slogans printed on its website: “Wayfair believes everyone should live in a home they love” to sway the leadership team.
“Let’s stay true to that message by taking a stand against the reprehensible practice of separating families, which denies them any home at all,” the employees’ letter said.
On Monday evening, Wayfair’s executives responded with their own letter in which they said they appreciated their employees “passion” and engagement on the subject. However, they said, as business leaders, they “also believe in the importance of respecting diversity of thought within our organization and across our customer base.”
“No matter how strongly any one of us feels about an issue, it is important to keep in mind that not all employees or customers agree.”
The executives also defended the contract with BCFS and provided no indication that they would cease business with them.
“As a retailer, it is standard practice to fulfill orders for all customers, and we believe it is our business to sell to any customer who is acting within the laws of the countries within which we operate,” the letter said.
Soon after the letter was sent, the Twitter account @wayfairwalkout was launched to arrange Wednesday’s protest. The organizers also called on Wayfair to donate the US$87,000 in profit from the sale to the non-profit agency RAICES, which provides low-cost legal services to immigrant families and refugees.
In response, the protest organizers stated that Wayfair sent out a staff email indicating they will donate $100,000 to the American Red Cross.
The walkout has earned praise from several notable figures, including Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others.
On the other hand, U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign team defended the government’s contract with Wayfair in a tweet on Tuesday.
The controversy inspired many consumers to vow to boycott the online retailer.
With files from Ben Cousins