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Wayfair Donates $100,000 to Red Cross in Response to Employee Walkout

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  • Hundreds of employees at the home goods retailer Wayfair walked out of the retailer’s headquarters on Wednesday in protest of the company selling furniture to a government contractor that runs migrant detention facilities.
  • After discovering that the company had sold $200,000 worth of bedroom furniture for a center that holds migrant children, over 500 employees wrote a letter asking for Wayfair to stop selling to this contractor and others that run similar operations.
  • The protests were carried out after the company did not comply with the demands, but shortly before it started, Wayfair’s co-founders made a $100,000 donation to the Red Cross.
  • While protestors appreciated the donation, they say that it does not address the issue at hand and have promised to continue this discussion with management at Wayfair. 

Employees Speak Up 

Employees at the home goods retailer Wayfair staged a walkout on Wednesday after learning that the company had sold $200,000 worth of bedroom furniture to a government contractor that runs a detention center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas. 

The government contractor at the root of the issue is a nonprofit organization called BCFS, which made headlines last year for its harsh treatment of migrants. In September, Wayfair sold furniture to a BCFS facility in Tornillo, Texas that held more than 2,500 teenagers, according to the Washington Post. That camp was closed in January following “serious safety and health” concerns.

Aside from the contractors’ reputation, news of this Wayfair deal came amid outrage over reports that children were being denied basic items including toothpaste and soap at a detention center in Clint.

More than 500 employees signed a letter to executives after finding out about the contract with BCFS. In it, they urged the company to stop doing business with BCFS and other similar contractors that participate in the operation of migrant detention camps. They also called for the company to create a code of ethics for business- to business- sales.

Management at Wayfair responded with their own letter, telling employees that they appreciated their passion, but defended their actions saying: “It is our business to sell to any customer who is acting within the laws of the countries within which we operate.” 

Social Media Users Weigh In 

Soon after, a Twitter account appeared dedicated to organizing a walkout. 

News of the planned walkout spread quickly on social media on Tuesday and generated international attention, prompting many to call for a boycott of the company. Politicians even chimed in. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the walkout, saying: “Wayfair workers couldn’t stomach they were making beds to cage children.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president, also weighed in saying, “The safety and well-being of immigrant children is always worth fighting for.”

Walkouts & Red Cross Donation 

Several hundred employees protested in Copley Square near Wayfair’s Boston headquarters on Wednesday, including engineers, product managers, visual artists, and others. 

But shortly before the protest began, Wayfair cofounders Steve Conine and Niraj Shah sent a note to employees. In it, they said they both “care a great deal about humanitarian issues,” and added, “We agree that there is a crisis at the border and people there are in need.” 

The co-founders then told employees that the company would donate $100,000 to the Red Cros to support its “efforts to help those in dire need of basic necessities at the border.” 

The Red Cross confirmed receiving the funds saying it was “grateful for Wayfair’s generous donation,” the Chicago Tribune reported. They also said it would put the money towards community-based organizations that are helping with the migrant crisis at the southern border. 

Still, protest organizers say the donation does not actually address their concerns.

According to the Boston Globe, one employee said she and other organizers walked out of a meeting with Shah on Tuesday when he refused to meet their demands. 

Vox issued a similar report, saying that during that afternoon meeting, the co-founders discussed giving a large donation. “There are questions about which charity to give to avoid anyone being seen as too political,” the employee told Vox.They said no outright to the ACLU. A lot of it was them not trying to commit to anything too specifically.”

At one point at least one employee asked Conine if the company could meet their two demands and Conine responded that he couldn’t give the answer they wanted to hear. Employees were not satisfied with those responses and pushed forward with the protest. 

As far as what happens next, an organizer told the Cut that the walkout was considered a success, but said the demands have still not been met. The online magazine reported, “The protesters will continue speaking with management to try to ensure that their business won’t be profiting off of human misery.”

See what others are saying: (The Boston Globe) (Vox) (CNBC)



Business

Walmart Ends E-Cigarette Sales

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  • Walmart announced its plans to stop selling e-cigarettes on Friday.
  • The company said it made its decision in light of the “uncertainty” regarding the products on local and federal levels.
  • Federal health officials have growing concerns about the products and have potentially linked over 500 illnesses and eight deaths to them.

Walmart Ends E-Cigarette Sales

Walmart plans to end its sale of e-cigarettes due to ongoing concerns about the products.

“Given the growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes, we plan to discontinue the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products at all Walmart and Sam’s Club U.S. locations,” the company said Friday in a confirmed internal memo obtained by CNBC.

National Concerns About E-Cigarettes

This decision comes as both New York and Michigan have banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. President Donald Trump has also suggested his interest in banning flavored products. 

Recently, federal health officials have become increasingly concerned about their potential link to serious illnesses. They investigating 530 cases of people who have contracted vaping related illnesses. Eight people have died from diseases believed to be related to vaping since August. 

This is not the first decision of this sort the company has made this year. Back in May, Walmart said it would raise its minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 to prevent possible sales to minors.

See what others are saying: (CNBC) (Fox Business) (Engadget)

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School Shooting-Themed Hoodies Slammed by Gun Violence Victims

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  • A fashion brand faced criticism for designing hoodies that featured bullet holes along with the names of schools that were sites of some of the nation’s deadliest school shootings. 
  • Bstroy, a streetwear line known for rebellious designs, said it wanted to make a bold statement about gun violence “while also empowering the survivors of tragedy through storytelling in the clothes.”
  • While the hoodies were just created for their New York fashion show, the designers are now considering selling the sweatshirts despite widespread outrage from victims.

School Shooting Sweatshirts 

A fashion brand known as Bstroy sparked outrage on social media after designing school shooting-themed hoodies for a show during New York Fashion Week.

The brand’s latest collection, designed by Brick Owens and Duey Catorze, featured distressed hoodies with the names of schools that were all impacted by gun violence and even included bullet hole details throughout each piece.  

The schools included in the show were Stoneman Douglas, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine, all sites of some of the nation’s deadliest school shootings. 

Backlash From Victims 

Photos from the runway posted to Instagram over the weekend were quickly met with a wave of backlash from commenters who identified themselves as shooting survivors and friends or relatives of gun violence victims. 

Comments below Instagram images posted to Bstroy and Owens’ accounts.

A spokesperson for the Vicky Soto Memorial Fund, which was created after teacher Victoria Soto was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, took to Twitter to call the designs “absolutely horrific.”

“A company is [making] light of our pain and other’s pain for fashion,” she continued. “Selling sweatshirts with our name and bullet holes. Unbelievable.”

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jamie died during the Stoneman Douglas shooting also tweeted, “This has me so upset. If any of my followers no anybody involved with this clothing line, please ask them to stop it immediately.”

Shawn Sherlock, the aunt of another Stoneman Douglas victim named Gina Rose Montalto, said the company “should be ashamed of taking advantage of [her niece’s] death to make money.”

More About Bstroy

Bstroy, which describes itself as a “Neo-Native Menswear Design House,” was featured in a New York Times piece published last week about the next generation of high-end streetwear. The Times specifically pointed to the brand’s rebellious takes on classic designs.

They’re probably most well known for their double-edge jeans, which essentially look like two pairs of jeans stitched together at the ankle holes, as well as their Nike shoes dipped in concrete. 

@bstroy.us
Source: Theface.com

According to the paper, the brand has also designed “graphic T-shirts that nod to preppy interests like tennis and fencing, but with the sports gear replaced by guns.”

@bstroy.us

“We are making violent statements,” one designer told The Times. “That’s for you to know who we are, so we can have a voice in the market. But eventually that voice will say things that everyone can wear.”

Bstroy’s Response 

Late Tuesday, Owens posted a handout from the show on Instagram that read: “Sometimes life can be painfully ironic. Like the irony of dying violently in a place you considered to be a safe, controlled environment, like school. We are reminded all the time of life’s fragility, shortness, and unpredictability yet we are also reminded of its infinite potential.”

In an email sent to the Today show, Owens explained that he and Catorze were trying to make a bold statement. “We wanted to make a comment on gun violence and the type of gun violence that needs preventative attention and what its origins are, while also empowering the survivors of tragedy through storytelling in the clothes,” the designer wrote.

“Also built into the device is the fact that our image as young, black males has not been traditionally awarded credit for introducing avant-garde ideas. So many people have assumed our message to be lazy just because of what they’ve been taught about black men. These hoodies were made with all of these intentions in mind, and to explore all of these societal issues. Not just the surface layer of gun violence in schools but also the different ways that we relate to each other and the dated ideas that still shape the assumptions we make about each other,” he wrote.

The designers also spoke to The Cut about the response to the collection and said, “People get the opportunity to form their opinions before they get all the information and here we see the internal desire of society rear its head.” 

“People seem to want to release hateful energy as a default,” they added. 

The designers then explained that they are now considering whether or not to put the hoodies up for sale, saying: “The hoodies have only been shown not sold and the school shooting hoodies were initially intended to be just for the show and not to sell but that may change now.”

The backlash surrounding the designs comes just as the nonprofit organization Sandy Hook Promise released an intense video about gun violence in schools. 

See what others are saying: (The Cut) (The Washington Post) (Today)

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Business

Nearly 50,000 Workers Strike Against General Motors

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  • GM Employees are striking for the second day after contract negotiations between their union and company did not meet their demands. 
  • GM did give an offer after negotiations, but it was not satisfactory to the nearly 50,000 employees, who are asking for higher wages, better healthcare, a share of profits, job security, and more.
  • Many of the employees say they will commit to the strike until the company meets their requirements, however, others are concerned about living off the estimated $250 of weekly assistance pay while the strike carries on.

Employees Strike

As General Motors and the United Automobile Workers union resume negotiations, GM employees are entering their second day of nationwide strikes.

Fair wages, affordable healthcare, fairer profit shares, job security, and a path to permanent employment for temps are all on the list of demands for the close to 50,000 GM workers striking throughout nine states today. This is the first strike in the U.S. auto industry since 2007, which was also led by GM workers. Striking began Sunday at midnight after a weekend of failed negotiations between GM and UAW. 

Their 2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement expired Saturday night, but the UAW declined to extend it. After negotiations ended, the UAW’s Vice President, Terry Dittes released a statement standing by his commitment to worker’s needs. 

“While we are fighting for better wages, affordable quality health care, and job security, GM refuses to put hard-working Americans ahead of their record profits of $35 billion in North America over the last three years,” he said. “We are united in our efforts to get an agreement our members and their families deserve.”

GM extended an offer to its employees that included over $7 billion in investments and 5,400 jobs. The deal also included wage or lump sum increases for every year of the four-year contract, an improved profit-sharing formula, and additional forms of health benefits.

Employees rejected that offer and went forward with their strike after this proposal, forcing GM to resume negotiations with UAW on Monday. 

“Our goal remains to reach an agreement that builds a stronger future for our employees and our business,” GM said in a statement announcing the continued talks. 

Potential Consequences of Strike

The strike does not come without potential consequences, not just for GM, but for the employees as well. Reports say GM could lose up to $90 million a day during the strike, but employees also stand to lose a lot. 

According to a Fox Business report, GM employees will have to wait 15 days to receive their assistance pay, which comes out to $250 a week. This barely covers rent in Detroit, a city that hosts many employees of the company. 

One Detroit-area employee, Patricia Brown, told the outlet that one of her main fears is “that we might be here for a while… and we can’t make it on $250 a week. You know, GM might not want to budge. So I’m just here trying to prove a point, that’s it.”

Still, some see the risk to be worth the reward. Ray Carter-Wilson, a single father also striking in the Detroit area told CNN he is comfortable striking for a long time as long as it all works out. 

“I understand the difficulty of the negotiations and the importance of them,” he said. “This being a lengthy strike, I’m fine with it as long as everything gets ironed out and is fair for everyone.” 

Politicians Support Strike

Strikers also have support from prominent public officials. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) said she was “inspired” by the workers. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also pointed out the wage inequality at the company while adding that he stood with the strike. 

See what others are saying: (Fox Business) (CNN) (The Hill)

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