Thursday, September 11, 2008

Muslims walk out, get fired in religious-rights flap

More than 100 Muslim workers were fired from a Colorado beef processing plant Wednesday, almost a week after 250 walked off the job mid-shift over a debate on religious accommodation.

Last Friday, workers at Greeley-based JBS Swift & Co. said the company violated an agreement to accommodate their religious practices during the holy month of Ramadan. The workers claim that last Thursday, officials agreed to move their 9:30 p.m. break to 7:30 p.m., when many ended daytime fasts, but the break was cancelled without notice. Managers then worked to block restrooms and break rooms at 7:30 and harassed those who tried to take the scheduled break. The company employs hundreds of Muslim workers, mostly immigrants from Somalia.

Chris Casey of the Greeley Tribune writes, "Muslim workers said during Ramadan they fast starting at sunrise, so by 7:30 p.m., they have gone about 14-1/2 hours without food or water. A union representative said the company did not provide enough notice that those who didn't return to work by Wednesday would be fired. He said the union will file a grievance for any worker who wants to return to the plant. JBS Swift's spokeswoman said the walkout violated a collective bargaining agreement, and that the company works with the union and its workers to "accommodate religious practices in a reasonable, safe and fair manner." (Read more)

Earlier this year, Muslim workers successfully negotiateed with a Tyson processing plant in Shelbyville, Tenn., to make Eid-al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, a paid holiday off. (Read more)

No comments: