Photo: Wayfair co-founders Niraj Shah, left and Steve Conine
Employees at Boston-based online home furnishings retailer Wayfair, co-founded by billionaire Niraj Shah, walked out recently to protest the company’s decision to sell $200,000 worth of furniture to a US government contractor that runs a detention center for migrant children in Texas.
The protest triggered a broader backlash against the company, with some customers calling for a boycott. Several hundred people joined the protest at a plaza near the company’s Boston headquarters, a mix of employees and people from outside the company.
Nearly 550 Wayfair workers then signed a letter of protest addressed to co-founders Niraj Shah, Steve Conine, and the rest of the Wayfair leadership team, “from a place of concern and anger about the atrocities being committed at our Southern border.” The letter asked Wayfair leaders to “cease all current and future business with BCFS” and other firms operating migrant detention camps, and to establish a code of ethics for Wayfair’s business-to-business sales “in accordance with our core values.”
Wayfair refused to back out of the contract but told employees the morning of June 26 that it would donate $100,000 to the Red Cross.
Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both said they stood by the Wayfair employees who are protesting, as did Congressional Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
Wayfair’s stock initially slipped more than 5 percent June 25 as word of the walkout spread. On June 26, the stock rose about 1 percent.
The protest comes amid a new uproar over revelations of terrible conditions at a Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, first reported by The Associated Press, including inadequate food, lack of medical care, no soap and older children trying to care for toddlers.
Wayfair said it would have no further comment on the protest.