Wayfair workers to walk off job to protest furniture sales to migrant detention centers

Workers are demanding the e-commerce furniture giant cease all current and future business with contractors operating detention centers.
Image: Migrants are seen outside the U.S. Border Patrol McAllen Station in a makeshift encampment in McAllen
Migrants outside a Border Patrol station in a makeshift encampment in McAllen, Texas, on May 15, 2019.Loren Elliott / Reuters

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By Ben Kesslen

Employees of the Boston-based online furniture company Wayfair are set to walk out Wednesday in protest of the company’s decision to continue supplying furniture to migrant detention centers.

Organizing under the newly formed group, Wayfair Walkout, workers are demanding the e-commerce furniture giant cease all current and future business with contractors operating detention centers and establish an ethics code that “empowers employees to act in accordance with Wayfair’s core values.”

The group sent a letter to the company’s leadership last week, signed by 547 employees, calling for the end of operations that furnish detention centers.

“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 said. In the message, employees said the company recently fulfilled an order of bedroom furniture worth $200,000 to be sent to a facility in Texas housing migrant children and operated by BCFS, a nonprofit government contractor that manages detention camps.

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“At Wayfair, we believe that ‘everyone should live in a home that they love,’” the employees wrote, citing a company slogan. “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 company responded by saying they would not stop providing furniture to the detention centers, which have come under sharp criticism for their unsafe and dangerous conditions.

“As a retailer, it is standard practice to fulfill orders for all customers,” the company of over 12,000 employees replied in a letter signed by the “Leadership Team.”

Wayfair encouraged employees to continue engaging in “our democratic system” but said they believe in the importance of “respecting diversity of thought within our organization and across our customer base.”

Workers at Wayfair planned the strike in response to the leadership’s decision, and are demanding the company donate the $86,000 in profit they claim Wayfair made from the sale to RAICES, a nonprofit that provides legal services to immigrants and refugees.

RAICES applauded the organizers of the walkout in a tweet, saying “No one who works for a company profiting from these camps should be standing idly by as children are dying. This takes a village.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., also showed support for the walkout in a tweet, saying “This is what solidarity looks like,” as did Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.

Wayfair did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment.

Rima Abdelkader contributed.