© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
News Partners

Wayfair Employees Walk Out To Protest Sales To Immigrant Detention Facilities

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now to Boston where hundreds of employees of online retailer Wayfair walked out of the company's headquarters. They're protesting the company's sale of furnishings to a federal contractor working in immigrant detention facilities at the U.S. border. From member station WBUR, Simon Rios reports.

SIMON RIOS, BYLINE: Workers protested outside of the company's headquarters in Boston's Copley Square today.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Hey, hey, ho, ho, ICE contracts have got to go.

RIOS: They're denouncing executives' refusal to back out of a sale with a government contractor furnishing a federal detention center for migrants near the U.S. border with Mexico. Workers say they urged the company to stop the sale, but when they were unsuccessful, they decided to organize this walkout. Madeline Howard is a seven-year employee of Wayfair and one of the organizers.

MADELINE HOWARD: We really need to make it clear to them that there are consequences for doing the things that they've done and that they can't meet us with half measures. And also we want to make it a place where we're proud to work. Everyone deserves a home they love. That's sort of the company motto. And we think this action selling these - or, like, profiting off of selling these beds to these border camps just flies in the face of that.

RIOS: The firm in question is BCFS. It identifies itself as a global system of health and human services nonprofits. BCFS issued a terse statement in response to the walkout, saying, quote, "We believe youth should sleep in beds with mattresses." Advocates have described unsafe and unsanitary conditions at the detention centers. But Wayfair says it's standard practice to fulfill orders for all customers they believe are acting within the laws of the countries where Wayfair operates. Rob Burke was at the protest today but not in support of the protesters.

ROB BURKE: They're upset about the company - their company - delivering products - selling product to a nonprofit that is putting this situation in beds - OK? - the beds or whatever the material is to keep these kids because they're getting jammed up by the Congress. They're not being allowed to allocate any money. So there's a political problem here.

RIOS: In response to the controversy, Wayfair said it will donate $100,000 to the Red Cross. Instead, some employees want any profit donated to an immigrant aid group in Texas. And they want Wayfair not to do business with companies involved with detaining children. For NPR News, I'm Simon Rios in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.