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Wayfair employees plan walkout to protest furniture sales to border camps

Walkout comes amid reports of children being held in inhumane conditions at detention facilities.

US-MEXICO-IMMIGRATION

A temporary facility set up to hold immigrants at a US Border Patrol Station in Clint, Texas, where lawyers say they witnessed inhumane conditions of overcrowding.

Paul Ratje/AFP/Getty Images

Employees at the online furniture retailer Wayfair plan to walk off the job Wednesday in protest of the company's sale of bedroom furniture to operators of detention centers for migrant children at the southern US border. The protest comes after employees learned last week that a $200,000 order of bedroom furniture had been placed by BCFS, a government contractor that operates the facilities.

"We were disheartened and concerned about Wayfair's business" with BCFS, an anonymous employee told the Boston Globe. A letter signed by more than 547 employees was sent to the Boston-based company's executive leadership outlining their concerns.

An official Twitter account for the walkout called @WayfairWalkout on Wednesday posted the goals for the protest. 

"Commitment to the requests as laid out in our original letter," the account tweeted. "The additional request that all profits from completed sales be donated to RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services). Cease all current and future business with BCFS and other contractors participating in the operation of migrant detention camps at our Southern border (or any other location). Establish a code of ethics for B2B Sales that empowers Wayfair and its employees to act in accordance with our core values."

The protest comes amid widespread criticism of one Texas facility's "inhumane" conditions. Recent reports have indicated that more than 300 children had been detained at a facility near El Paso, where they were caring for each other without adequate food, water or sanitation.

Wayfair employees are the latest tech workers to walk off the job to express their dissatisfaction with their company's business decisions. In May, more than 100 employees of Riot Games, the company behind League of Legends, walked out to protest the use of forced arbitration to resolve sexual harassment claims. In November, Google employees around the world staged a coordinated walkout to protest the company's handling of the sexual harassment allegations.

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The letter from the Wayfair employees to the company's leadership cited harsh conditions along the border.

"Over the last two days it has come to our attention that Wayfair has again engaged in B2B sales with BCFS, a non-profit government contractor managing camps for migrants at our Southern border," the letter said.

"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. 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, which was delivered to executives on Friday, goes on to ask the company to cease all current and future business with the contractor. Employees received an unsigned response from the leadership team Monday that thanked employees for bringing their concerns to management.

"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 executives' letter said. "We believe all of our stakeholders, employees, customers, investors, and suppliers included are best served by our commitment to fulfill our orders."

Employees called for the walkout Tuesday after receiving the response.

Wayfair representatives didn't respond to a request for comment.

The BCFS didn't address the employee walkout in a terse statement Wednesday morning.

"We believe youth should sleep in beds with mattresses," a spokesman said .

Originally published on June 25.
Update, June 26: Adds tweets from walkout account.