As promised, hundreds of Wayfair employees walked off their jobs on Wednesday afternoon in protest of the company’s decision to sell more than $200,000 in bedroom furniture to a contractor running a migrant detention center in Texas.
Workers based out of the company’s Boston headquarters abandoned their posts at 1:30 p.m. and gathered in nearby Copley Square, many holding signs with messages like “A prison with a bed is still a prison” and “workers say no to child detention!” CNN estimates that protesters numbered around 500, though it’s unclear what percentage of the crowd is affiliated with Wayfair.
The walkout followed a letter from 547 employees expressing concern over the company’s decision to sell more than $200,000 in bedroom furniture to contractor BCFS, which would be used to furnish a 3,000-person child detention facility in Carrizo Springs, TX.
On Tuesday, the Twitter account @wayfairwalkout, which purportedly represents the workers, asked that Wayfair donate the $86,000 profit it allegedly made off the sale to Raices, a Texas non-profit that organizes legal services for refugees and immigrants.
In a letter sent to employees on Wednesday, Wayfair co-founders Steve Conine and Niraj Shah wrote that they “care a great deal about humanitarian issues,” saying that the company has provided “millions of dollars to support a variety of charities,” citing Habitat for Humanity and Homes for Our Troops as examples. It then said it would make a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross “in order to help those in dire need of basic necessities at the border.”
It’s unclear why Conine and Shah chose to donate to the Red Cross, a bloated organization that seems to routinely mismanage its funds, instead of a local group with a proven history of successfully helping its clients.
Still, the donation represents a shift from leadership’s earlier position. During a town hall meeting on Tuesday, Conine said he personally objected to the detention centers, but that to take action as a company would tread on a “slippery slope.”
“The level of your citizenship as citizens is really the appropriate channel to try and attack an issue like this. To pull a business into it—we’re not a political entity. We’re not trying to take a political side.”