Wayfair workers walk out, protest retailer selling furniture to detention centers that house kids
BOSTON - Employees for online furniture retailer Wayfair walked out Wednesday to protest the company’s sale of beds to migrant detention facilities that have come under fire for holding children in substandard conditions.
The walkout came about because employees learned last week that an order for about $200,000 worth of furniture was placed by BCFS, a government contractor that operates detention facilities for the Department of Health and Human Services.
BCFS will be opening a new migrant facility in Texas, where about 1,600 minors will be housed, according to CNN.
Employees sent management a letter urging the company to stop selling items to BCFS. Wayfair responded and said it would continue to do business with the organization.
After receiving that response, employees planned the walkout. News of it began trending on Twitter Tuesday under #WayfairWalkout. It eventually caught the attention of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who praised the employees for standing in solidarity on the issue.
“This is what solidarity looks like – a reminder that everyday people have real power, as long as we’re brave enough to use it,” she said.
Presidential candidate and Sen. Elizabeth Warren also tweeted about the walkout, stating that she stands with the employees.
“The safety and well-being of immigrant children is always worth fighting for,” she said.
On Wednesday, videos and photos showing about 500 employees walking out of Wayfair in Boston surfaced on Twitter. Many people tweeted their support.
According to tweets from an account called Wayfairwalkout, the employees are also asking the company to donate the $86,000 in profits from the sales to RAICES, a Texas-based nonprofit that provides free or low-cost legal services to undocumented immigrants.
The protest triggered a broader backlash against the company, with social media users saying they were canceling orders.
It also comes amid growing frustration over reports of terrible conditions at a Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas. The Associated Press first reported on the conditions, which included inadequate food, no soap, no beds and children trying to take care of toddlers.
The unprecedented surge of migrant families has left U.S. immigration detention centers severely overcrowded and taxed the government's ability to provide medical care and other attention. Six children have died since September after being detained by border agents.
As the controversy grew, the acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection resigned Tuesday, though he did not give a reason for leaving.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.