Hundreds of Wayfair employees walked out of work Wednesday afternoon to protest the company’s business with the government agency and its contractors housing children seeking asylum in the US.
The walkout comes after employees discovered that Wayfair fulfilled an order for $200,000 worth of bedroom furniture for a detention facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, that is designed to hold up to 3,000 immigrant children, a Wayfair employee who has access to the contract told BuzzFeed News. Wayfair previously sold furniture to outfit a Tornillo, Texas, detention facility housing children seeking asylum in September 2018, the employee said. Wayfair did not respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment about these claims.
A group of more than 500 employees condemned the sale in a letter sent Monday to Wayfair's leadership team. The group called for the company to stop its business with BCFS Health and Human Services and for it to develop a code of ethics for business-to-business transactions. The facilities have recently come under fire for their unsanitary conditions and poor treatment of infants and children.
"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 stated.
Wayfair responded to the letter Monday evening, stating that it believes in the "importance of respecting diversity of thought" but adding that "not all employees or customers agree" with its opinions and demands.
"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 letter reads. "This does not indicate support for the opinions or actions of the groups or individuals who purchase from us."
In response to the company not meeting its demands, a group of employees organized a walkout to urge Wayfair to discontinue its business with BCFS HHS and donate the $86,000 in profits it made to the nonprofit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. Instead, the company told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that it will donate $100,000 to the Red Cross in response to the employees' action.
The Wayfair walkout is the latest example of tech employees organizing to change their employers' business practices. Amazon employees recently filed a rejected proposal to require the company to develop a climate change plan that would reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. They have also raised concerns about the potential misuse of the company's Amazon Rekognition product. Last year, Google employees organized a walkout to protest the company's handling of sexual misconduct allegations.