Wayfair employees walked out of the Boston-based furniture company’s Copley Square headquarters Wednesday over executives’ refusal to back out of a sale to a government contractor furnishing a federal detention center for migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border.
“This is the first time I felt like I needed to hit the streets to make sure I was proud of my company, to make sure I was happy to work for them,” employee Madeline Howard said at the walkout.
Hundreds of employees signed a letter that said Wayfair has a contract for $200,000 worth of bedroom furniture with BCFS Health and Human Services that would be distributed to a facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas.
“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 said.
Advocates and lawyers have reported unsafe and unsanitary conditions in some migrant shelters, though Customs and Border Protection says it is leveraging limited resources to “provide the best care possible.”
Wayfair’s leadership team, in an unsigned response to protesting employees obtained by The Boston Globe, wrote that it was “proud to have such an engaged team that is focused on impacting our world in meaningful and important ways,” but that it is company practice to fulfill all lawful orders.
“As business leaders, we also believe in the importance of respecting diversity of thought within our organization and across our customer base,” the letter said. “No matter how strongly any one of us feels about an issue, it is important to keep in mind that not all employees or customers agree.”
Wayfair did not respond to WBUR’s request for comment.
The employees had asked the company to stop the sale and review its code of ethics regarding business-to-business sales. The employees have since asked Wayfair to donate profits of the sale to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.
“I am proud to work at Wayfair and I’m proud to continue the dialogue that will lead to us ending the support of concentration camps at our southern border,” said employee Elizabeth Good at the walkout.