On Tuesday, Wayfair employees announced that they would stage a walkout to protest the company’s willingness to do business with government contractors managing the inhumane camps that are being used to imprison children at the border. On Wednesday, they did just that, with reports of hundreds of people (though not all employees) demonstrating in Boston’s Copley Square, near the company headquarters.
According to the reported timeline of events, Wayfair executives had a fairly cushy amount of time to acknowledge employee outrage and remedy the situation. After discovering that the e-commerce giant fulfilled an order for $200,000 worth of bedroom furniture for BCFS, the government contractor managing the detention facilities at the US-Mexico border, employees sent a letter addressed to CEO Niraj Shah, his co-founder Steve Conine, and the company board on Friday demanding they end business with the contractors and donate the profit to immigration nonprofit RAICES.
Wayfair’s executive leadership responded Monday evening with no plans to cease business with BCFS, a choice they doubled down on during a “packed” and “cringe-worthy” meeting Conine assembled on Tuesday, according to the Atlantic. Conine claimed that he was “very much against these detention centers” but that Wayfair wasn’t going to be a “discriminatory business.”
“The business basically exists to be a profit-generating entity, tries to create success for all our employees, tries to create wealth in all our employees so that we can all have an impact on the world,” Conine said during the meeting, according to leaked audio recording obtained by the Atlantic. “I mean, we’re not a political entity. We’re not trying to take a political side in this.”
An unverified Twitter account, @wayfairwalkout, was among the first to put the company’s complicity with the operators of the camps on the map. On Wednesday, the account reported that Wayfair announced in an email that they would be donating $100,000 to the Red Cross. Not inherently a shady move, but rather than respect employee demands and donate to an organization that directly helps those impacted by the detention facilities—the very ones Wayfair is doing business with—it’s a move that signals the company’s foot-dragging to take any political stance, even if it means giving aid to the damage being done.
The @wayfairwalkout account also announced alleged Wayfair employee demands, which included establishing a code of ethics for business-to-business sales. Conine was reportedly asked whether this existed during Tuesday’s meeting. He did not confirm the existence of such a policy, but rather stated that Wayfair “should put some thought into that.” Such guiding principles would arguably have been helpful prior to the company’s decision to do business with an entity directly linked to what will surely go down in history as one of the cruelest human rights violations of our time.