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Wayfair Employees Threaten Walkout Over Sales to Migrant Detention Contractor

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Central American migrant families recently released from federal detention wait to board a bus at a bus depot on June 12, 2019, in McAllen, Texas. LOREN ELLIOTT AFP/Getty Images

Employees at Wayfair are threatening a Wednesday walkout after the home goods company declined to end bed sales to federally-contracted facilities holding detained immigrants.

More than 500 employees in the company’s Boston office signed a letter protesting the fulfillment of a furniture order from BCFS, a government contractor in Texas.

The internal conflict is just the latest in a growing trend of public executive-employee rifts generated by the increased politicization of immigration and treatment of immigrant detainees along the southern border. In June 2018, groups of employees at Microsoft, Salesforce, and Amazon all went public with petitions imploring the respective CEOs to tear up contracts with various law enforcement agencies.

According to the employee letter to Wayfair management, which has been posted to social media, the employees drafted the petition after learning of a BCFS order last week.

“This particular order, for over $200,000 worth of bedroom furniture, is destined for Carrizo Springs, Texas, to a facility that will be outfitted to detain up to 3,000 migrant children seeking legal asylum in the United States,” said the letter to the company’s management team, including cofounders Niraj Shah and Steve Conine. “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. We, the undersigned, are writing to you from a place of concern and anger about the atrocities being committed at our Southern border.”

The letter asks the company to end sales with border camp contractors in addition to establishing a formal code of ethics for future business-to-business relationships.

“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. “At Wayfair, we believe that ‘everyone should live in a home that they love.’ 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.”

According to the protesting group of employees, Wayfair management responded with an unsigned letter defending its position as “respecting diversity of thought within our organization and across our customer base.”

“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 response letter stated. “… It is our hope that Wayfair’s continued success will enable all of us as individuals to pursue our passions and advance the causes we believe in. We are already seeing much of this through the ongoing philanthropic work and donations driven by many individuals at Wayfair.”

Wayfair did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

A Twitter account promoting the protest, @wayfairwalkout, was subsequently set up and had grown to 6,000 followers by 4 p.m. Tuesday, A post on the account says the walkout is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. EST at the Wayfair corporate headquarters in the Back Bay area of Boston.

 

In addition to announcing the walkout, the employees have asked the company to donate all of the proceeds from the BCFS sale to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a non-profit organization providing immigrant legal services.

Some Wayfair customers backing the employees’ stand have begun venting on social media.

Last year, more than 400 Microsoft employees signed a petition demanding termination of a contract with ICE, more than 650 Salesforce employees challenged the company’s agreement with CBP, and Amazon employees criticized work being done to provide law enforcement agencies with new facial recognition technology. To date, none of the companies have decided to change course despite the public employee protests.

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