Employees at online furniture giant Wayfair are organizing a walkout to protest the retailer’s sale of $200,000 worth of beds and other furniture to a Texas detention center for migrant children.
The walkout, planned for Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. near the company’s Boston headquarters, comes after Wayfair executives said they would fulfill an order for beds and other items for a detention center in Carrizo Springs, Tex., according to two Wayfair employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The order was placed by BCFS, a government contractor that manages the facility.
In September, Wayfair sold furniture to another BCFS facility in Tornillo, Tex., that held more than 2,500 teenagers, according to employees. That camp was closed in January following “serious safety and health” concerns.
“We’re walking out in protest of our leadership’s decision to sell to reprehensible concentration camps," an employee said. "We had hoped that raising awareness would be enough for them to do the right thing, but it wasn’t. We want to make it clear that this is not a political issue — it’s a humanitarian issue, and we will not back down.”
The protest comes days after lawyers and doctors reported that children were being denied basic items including toothpaste and soap at a detention center in Clint, Tex..
Wayfair employees on Friday sent a letter to company executives asking that they cease all business with contractors that operate detention camps for immigrants. Nearly 550 Wayfair employees signed the letter.
The company’s leadership team responded Monday, saying they would move forward with the order. Representatives for Wayfair did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment.
“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 in which we operate," they wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Washington Post. "Your fellow employees hold a wide range of opinions and perspectives and Wayfair, as a mass-market brand, is oriented to serve a broad and diverse customer base.”
Employees are now calling on Wayfair to donate profits from the sale — estimated to be about $86,000 — to Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a Texas-based nonprofit organization that provides legal services to immigrants.
“At the very least, we do not want to profit off these sales,” the employee said. “Additionally, we want to make sure that we have a system in place to prevent anything like this happening again.”
Although the order placed last week by BCFS might help provide beds to children who could otherwise be sleeping on the floor, Wayfair employees said they felt strongly that the company should not support the government’s efforts to detain migrants seeking asylum.
“Supporting racist policy for the right reasons still means you’re supporting racist policy,” the employee said. “Our attention and energy should be devoted to shutting camps down, not towards making them better."
Wayfair, founded by Niraj Shah and Steven Conine in 2002, has become an online powerhouse with nearly $7 billion in annual sales. The company also owns furniture and home goods sites Joss & Main, AllModern, Birch Lane and Perigold.
“We want to work for a company we’re proud of," one employee said. “We cannot sit silently as these atrocities continue at the border.”
The walkout is the latest in a series of worker protests at major companies. Google employees last year walked out twice: the first time, to protest sexual misconduct at the firm; and the second, in response to its plans to create a censored search engine in China.
The Wayfair movement gained traction on Twitter, where dozens of Wayfair shoppers said they would stop buying from the company. A Twitter account, @Wayfairwalkout, created Tuesday morning, had more than 7,000 followers by 4 p.m.