Hundreds of Wayfair employees took to the streets Wednesday in a mass walkout from the furniture company’s headquarters to nearby Copley Square, holding signs and chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, ICE contracts have got to go!”
The movement was organized within a few days, after a Wayfair employee discovered a $200,000 furniture order last week that confirmed that Wayfair sold beds to BFCS, a government contractor that operates detention centers on the southern border.
Organizer and Wayfair employee Emily Garbutt helped organize the protest.
“One of the company's slogans is that ‘Everyone should have a home that they love,’ and as employees, we want to stand by that,” Garbutt said. “We think that everyone should have a bed — not in a jail.”
According to a letter to the company’s senior management, the order was addressed to a facility in Carrizo Springs, Tex., which is expected to house 1,600 children seeking asylum in the United States.
The letter, signed by more than 550 Wayfair employees, asked for Wayfair to cut ties with BCFS and to donate the profits to RAICES, a nonprofit that works with refugees.
“A lot of people have said, 'Well if you won't let them sell here, where do you draw the line?'" organizer and Wayfair employee Emily Garbutt said at the protest. “Here's where we draw the line: we draw the line at baby jail.”
Company executives responded to the letter, stating that “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 in which we operate.”
Madeline Howard, who has worked as a product manager at Wayfair for over six years and helped to organize the protest, said the response from management left employees “disappointed and galvanized” to go out and protest.
“It was a bad move,” Howard said. “We've had many conversations with the leaders back and forth. We really do want to reach some kind of agreement with them, but they're just not hearing what we're saying.”
The walkout has gathered national political attention, with figures such as Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren voicing their support on social media.
Ahead of the walkout, Wayfair co-founders announced the company would donate $100,000 to the Red Cross for basic needs for children detained by the Department of Health and Human Services. Howard said that’s not good enough.
“The Red Cross isn't who we asked them to donate to,” she said. “It's great, but also there are a lot of ICE facilities that the Red Cross can't enter or can't donate to.”
WGBH News intern Kenya Hunter contributed to this report.