Wayfair employees plan walkout after company sells beds to migrant detention centres: reports

Employees at Wayfair, an online furniture retailer, have organized a walkout to protest the company’s sale of beds and other goods to a migrant detention centre holding children in Texas, U.S. media reports say.

According to the Washington Post, Employees are planning to walk out on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. ET, near the company’s headquarters in Boston.

The employees decided to walk out after they were told the company was fulfilling an order from BCFS, a government contractor who operates the facilities, for beds and other goods for a detention centre in Carrizo Springs, Texas, the Washington Post reports.

According to CNBC, BCFS placed an order worth $200,000 for 1,600 mattresses and 100 bunk beds.

The Boston Globe reports Wayfair employees sent a letter to company executives on Friday, asking that they cease all business with the detention centre.

“The United States government and its contractors are responsible for the detention and mistreatment of hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking asylum in our country — we want that to end,” a copy of the letter obtained by the Boston Globe reads.

“We also want to be sure that Wayfair has no part in enabling, supporting, or profiting from this practice.”

The letter calls on the company to cease all current and future business with BCFS and other contractors participating in the operation of migrant detention camps at the southern border. It also asks that a code of ethics for B2B sales be established that “empowers Wayfair and its employees to act in accordance with our core values.”

“We believe that by selling these (or any) products to BCFS or similar contractors we are enabling this violation and are complicit in furthering the inhumane actions of our government,” the letter reads.

CNBC reports more than 500 employees signed the letter.

The company’s leadership responded on Monday in a letter, saying they would move forward with the order.

“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 countries in which we operate,” the letter, obtained by the Boston Globe, reads.

“Your fellow employees hold a wide range of opinions and perspectives and Wayfair, as a mass-market brand, is oriented to serve a broad and diverse customer base.”

A Twitter account purportedly run by employees — @wayfairwalkout — gained traction on Tuesday, and had more than 10,000 followers by the afternoon.

In a series of tweets, the account announced the walkout, and called on the company to donate the estimated $86,000 profit from the BCFS order to RAICES — an immigration legal services non-profit in Texas.

“In response to a recent letter signed by 547 employees, our CEO said that the company would not cease doing business with contractors furnishing border camps,” the tweet reads. “We ask that the company donate the $86,000 in profit they made from this sale to RAICES.”

RAICES, responded on Twitter, applauding the planned protest.

“No one who works for a company profiting from these camps should be standing idly by as children are dying,” The organization wrote. “This takes a village.”

An employee, who spoke the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, called the detention centres “reprehensible.”

“We’re walking out in protest of our leadership’s decision to sell to reprehensible concentration camps,” they said.

“We had hoped that raising awareness would be enough for them to do the right thing, but it wasn’t,” they told the Washington Post. “We want to make it clear that this is not a political issue — it’s a humanitarian issue, and we will not back down.”

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Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley showed her solidarity with employees planning to walk out in a tweet on Tuesday.

“We must actively #resist any & all efforts by this cruel, incompetent administration to cage children and separate families,” she wrote. “I proudly stand in solidarity w/ the hardworking individuals at #Wayfair who are walking out in the name of #justice & humanity.”

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also tweeted her support.

“Wayfair workers couldn’t stomach they were making beds to cage children. They asked the company to stop. CEO said no,” she wrote. “Tomorrow, they’re walking out. This is what solidarity looks like — a reminder that everyday people have real power, as long as we’re brave enough to use it.”

A request for comment from Wayfair was not answered by the time of publication.

According to numbers released earlier this month, the U.S. Border Patrol’s apprehension of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border has hit the highest level in more than a decade.

Agents made 132,887 apprehensions in May, the first time that apprehensions have topped 100,000 since April 2007.

It set a record with 84,542 adults and children apprehended. Another 11,507 were children travelling alone, and 36,838 were single adults.

Also released earlier this month was a report from the Border Network for Human Rights based on dozens of testimonials of immigrants over the past month and a half.

The report provided a snapshot of cramped conditions and prolonged stays in detention amid a record surge of migrant families coming into the U.S. from Central America.

“The state of human rights in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands is grave and is only getting worse,” the immigrant rights group said in its report. “People are dying because of what is happening.”

Customs and Border Protection responded to the complaints, saying “allegations are not facts. If there is an issue it is best to contact CBP directly. In many cases the matter can be resolved immediately.”

On Monday, most of the migrant children housed at a remote border patrol station in Texas were moved following reports that more than 300 children were being detained with inadequate food, water and sanitation.

However, on Tuesday, U.S. government officials said they moved more than 100 children back to the facility.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said he was concerned about the conditions at the border facilities.

“I’m very concerned. And they are much better than they were under President Obama by far,” he said. “And we’re trying to get the Democrats to agree to really give us some humanitarian aid and humanitarian money.”

— With files from the Associated Press 

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