BOSTON—Hundreds of employees of home-goods delivery giant Wayfair took to the streets in Boston on Wednesday to protest the company’s decision to sell furniture to a government contractor that would be used for children detained at the border.
The workers had already signed a petition demanding that Wayfair halt the sale and change company policy to prevent such sales in the future. But at 1:30 p.m., they streamed out of the company’s office for a public walkout in Copley Square, hoisting signs with slogans like “Shut Down the Concentration Camps!”
Kayla Smith, a Wayfair engineer who has been with the company for a year, said it was the right thing to do.
“[Wayfair’s] a very liberal company so them coming out with a decision such as this, it isn’t on par with what I know them to be. I’m super disappointed and I hope we can do something about this,” Smith said.
“This is a moral issue.”
According to a demand letter posted on the Twitter account @wayfairwalkout, non-profit contractor Baptist Children and Family Services ordered $200,000 worth of bedroom furniture for a detention camp in Carrizo Springs, Texas, that could be outfitted to house up to 3,000 migrant children. Wayfair employees say the company stands to make a $86,000 profit and asked that it be donated to RAICES, a migrant aid organization; the company announced it would be donating $100,000 to the American Red Cross.
The walkout was widely publicized and drew support from high-profile progressives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and 2020 presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Madeline Howard, a product manager at Wayfair, led an hourlong rally that included speeches by union members, ACLU advocates and immigrants’ rights groups.
One employee, a five-year consultant who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, told The Daily Beast that as an immigrant from India, he had to take a stand.
“It only seems ethical not to support these detention camps,” he said. “We don’t want the detention camps in any way and endorsing them is against our values.”
Wayfair, which has more than 6,500 workers at its Boston site, declined to comment on the walkout. But according to a letter posted on the workers’ Twitter account, the company defended the sales, saying it’s “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,” it said.
Baptist Children and Family Services responded to the walkout with a statement that said: “We believe youth should sleep in beds with mattresses.”
Walkout organizers said they are still discussing the situation with the leadership team and urged employees to keep details of those negotiations under wraps.
Among those joining Wednesday’s rally was former employee Matt Hughes, who worked in software for two and a half years and had started an unsuccessful petition to get Wayfair to stop selling Trump-branded merchandise in 2017.
“I was actually so excited to see that this was going on,” he said of the walkout.
“I think that this is part of a larger workers’ movement to democratize our workplaces and democratize the spaces that we spend most of our time in.”