Online furniture retailer Wayfair is getting heat from its employees who don’t like the company’s agreement with a government contractor to supply beds for migrants held at detention facilities near the U.S.-Mexico border.
FreightWaves has been unable to verify whether @wayfairwalkout is owned by a Wayfair employee, but a crowd gathered in Boston’s Back Bay near Wayfair’s corporate offices at the appointed walkout time.
Wayfair didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
The employees are protesting Wayfair’s agreement to supply $200,000 in bedroom furniture to a federally-operated detention facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, per a contract with non-profit BCFS Health and Human Services. Several employees sent a letter to company leadership last week, asking the company to immediately cease supplying the beds and to establish a code of ethics for business-to-business sales that aligns with the values of Wayfair’s employees.
“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,” the letter said. The Boston Globe said it obtained a copy of the letter from a company employee.
Wayfair responded to the letter saying, “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. We believe all of our stakeholders, employees, customers, investors and suppliers included, are best served by our commitment to fulfill all orders. This does not indicate support for the opinions or actions of the groups or individuals who purchase from us.”
BCFS spokeswoman Krista Piferrer countered, “We believe youths should sleep in beds with mattresses.” The company also directed questions about the contract to the Administration of Children and Families office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Evelyn Stauffer, HHS’ director of communications for that office, said, “Those who are protesting Wayfair’s sale of beds for unaccompanied alien children need to ask themselves what the alternative should be to keep the children comfortable. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is working tirelessly to add shelter capacity so the children are not in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities designed primarily for adults. ORR shelters and cares for the children while working to place them with appropriate sponsors once they leave CBP custody. This includes purchasing brand new beds for the children and other supplies. We appreciate businesses that are able to quickly supply these necessities to provide comfort to the children.”
According to @wayfairwalkout, Wayfair has said it will donate $100,000 to the Red Cross.
Massachusetts’ Democratic U.S. senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey tweeted their support to the protesting Wayfair employees.
“I stand with the hundreds of @Wayfair employees who are planning to stage a walkout at their Boston headquarters tomorrow. The safety and well-being of immigrant children is always worth fighting for,” Warren tweeted.
“I’m with the Wayfair workers 100 percent as they prepare to take a stand for the migrant children trapped in the humanitarian crisis on our southern border,” Markey said.