Wayfair workers, supporters protest furniture sale to U.S. immigrant camp

BOSTON (Reuters) - Several hundred people, including employees of Wayfair Inc, rallied in Boston on Wednesday to protest the online retailer’s sale of furniture for a Texas detention facility housing migrant children.

It was the latest outpouring of anger over Republican U.S. President Donald Trump’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. The protest drew the support of high-profile Democrats including U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a presidential candidate.

Wayfair employees walked off the job at 1:30 p.m. to protest an order for more than $200,000 of bedroom furniture destined for a facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, that would house migrant children seeking asylum. After about an hour, many in the crowd drifted away from the rally.

Employees have cited an internal document on the sale. A posting on Twitter, on @wayfairwalkout, said that 547 employees had signed a petition demanding that Wayfair halt all business with border camps. “CEO said no,” the tweet said.

They demanded that Wayfair stop selling to migrant detention camps and that it give profits of the sale, which they claim amount to $86,000, to a Texas-based non-profit agency offering legal services to immigrants.

“There is more to life than profit,” said Tom Brown, a 33-year-old engineer at Wayfair. “What is right is not cut and dry.”

A Wayfair spokeswoman declined to comment on the alleged sale.

Slideshow ( 9 images )

The company on Wednesday emailed employees to say it was making a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross, which was confirmed by the retailer.

“I can confirm the Red Cross donation that intended to assist with humanitarian relief at the border,” Wayfair spokeswoman Jane Carpenter told Reuters by email.

“That was not what we asked for,” said Madeline Howard, 29, a Wayfair product manager.

Some in the crowd carried signs with messages including “a cage is not a home” and “a prison with a bed is still a prison.”

Wayfair management rejected the petition’s demands in an internal memo on Tuesday, according to the Boston Globe.

“We also believe in the importance of respecting diversity of thought within our organization and across our customer base,” the unsigned letter read, according to the newspaper. “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.”

Criticism has mounted this week over the detention of migrant children in overcrowded, squalid conditions.

Reporting by Tim McLaughlin; Additional reporting by Melissa Fares in New York and Richa Naidu in Chicago; editing by Scott Malone, Leslie Adler and Susan Thomas