On June 26, 2019, hundreds of Wayfair employees walked out on the job after discovering that the company had sold over $200,000 worth of furniture to a Texas detention center housing migrant children. An employee was quoted saying: “We’re walking out in protest of the company’s decision to sell to reprehensible concentration camps”. He also added: “We want to make it clear that this is not a political issue, but a humanitarian one”.
By Friday, the employees had written a letter to the executives asking them to stop engaging in business with contractors that operate detention camps for immigrants.
To that the company answered that they would fill the order, but they would donate money to the Red Cross.
Wayfair employees found the response to be unacceptable and called for the walkout, which became widely known on Twitter, gaining many supporters. In two days they had close to 22,000 followers.
The Wayfair workers are giving everyone else a lesson on organizing and responding to the system. It took courage to confront the power of the company while exposing themselves to retaliations. Many times, when the livelihood of people is endangered, they may choose to do nothing and move away. Nevertheless, a time comes when as a collective, individuals find they cannot tolerate any longer the injustice that takes place and they decide to move against that which oppresses them.
Independently of how Wayfair decides to work in the future, their emp
loyees have set an excellent example of how, when people unite around a just cause, they can organize themselves and produce change. Historical changes take place when people not only judge and verbally oppose a regime, but when they do something about it. In this case showing the company how they will lose even more money than what they were getting from a business deal, but also from a continuous boycott by the employees against all the unethical management tactics.
Any system changes when people begin using actions instead of just words. The action that poses difficulties to those initiating change but keep in mind that in this very financially minded world, companies do not want to lose money by not having workers.
Workers practicing collective power are powerful political agents, even when they state their cause not as a political one, but just humanitarian. It is political because it implies a move forward. It is also political when you do nothing and let things happen, because in such cases the other is gaining through your lack of action.
The main lesson here is that people directly linked to production are letting their voices be heard through their actions. Let us hope that others can show us the way to be effective acting against injustice and we may have the courage to follow them.
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