Hundreds of Wayfair employees walked out on the job Wednesday after workers discovered that the company had sold $200,000 worth of furniture to a Texas detention center housing migrant children.
The Boston-based retailer, which has not publicly addressed the employees’ concerns, made a $100,000 donation to the Red Cross on Wednesday. The Red Cross confirmed the donation and said it would put the funds toward its efforts “helping with the border crisis in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.”
Employees said the donation was not enough and called on the company to create new ethics guidelines that would prevent future business with contractors overseeing detention camps for immigrants. Protesters held signs that said “a prison with a bed is still a prison” and “supplying is supporting."
The walkout gained traction on Twitter, where a @wayfairwalkout account created Tuesday had nearly 22,000 followers by midday Wednesday. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts were among the politicians who tweeted their support.
Wayfair did not respond to requests for comment.
“We’re walking out in protest of our leadership’s decision to sell to reprehensible concentration camps,” an employee who was organizing the walkout told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “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.”
Wayfair employees said they discovered through an internal computer system last week that detention center operator BCFS had placed a $200,000 order for bedroom furniture for a detention center in Carrizo Springs, Tex., where up to 4,000 migrant children are expected to be housed. More than 500 employees signed a letter sent to executives Friday asking them to stop doing business with government contractors that operate detention camps for immigrants.
Executives responded Monday, saying they planned to fulfill the order. They sent an email to employees on Wednesday, saying they would make a contribution to the Red Cross.
“We agree that there is a crisis at the border and people there are in need,” company co-founders Steve Conine and Niraj Shah wrote, according to a copy of the email obtained by The Washington Post.
They did not mention the company’s role in selling furniture to detention camps, but likened the donation to the company’s past charitable contributions in response to “natural disasters and other urgent needs for humanitarian relief,” including Hurricane Florence and the California wildfires.
Wayfair, founded in 2002, has become a major online retailer of furniture and home goods sold through its namesake site, as well as Joss & Main, AllModern, Birch Lane and Perigold. The company reported $6.8 billion in sales last year, a 44 percent increase from the previous year.