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  1. #1
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    Default Muslim Workers at Nebraska Meatpacking Plant Complain of Religious Harassment

    OMAHA, Neb.

    Supervisors at a meatpacking plant have fired or harassed dozens of Somali Muslim employees for trying to pray at sunset, violating civil rights laws, the workers and their advocates say.


    The five- to 10-minute prayer, known as the maghrib, must be done within a 45-minute window around sunset, according to Muslim rules. The workers at the Swift & Co. plant in Grand Island say they quit, were fired or were verbally and physically harassed over the issue.

    The Council on American-Islamic Relations has drafted a complaint to be filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The petition compiles testimony from at least 44 workers who had planned to sign the complaint during a meeting Sunday. The signing was changed to a later date because of a logistical problem.

    Jama Mohamed, 28, said he was fired in June for leaving a production line to pray. Supervisors would not allow him a break, he said.

    "Some of them took the (prayer) mat from me; they started shouting, they started telling me to stop it, and one of them grabbed me by the collar of my shirt," Mohamed said through an interpreter.

    "I was crying at the time this was happening to me, and when I finished I told them while they were doing that I was in the middle of a prayer."

    Mohamed said he was then called to an office, where a supervisor fired him.

    Mohamed Rage, chairman of the Omaha Somali-American Community Organization, said Swift had fired at least two dozen workers for praying since May.

    Donald Selzer, an attorney for Greeley, Colo.-based Swift, said only three Somali workers were fired for reasons relating to the issue, and that it was for walking off the line without permission, not for praying.

    Unscheduled breaks can force unplanned shutdowns of lines, Selzer said.

    "That is a significant number of employees, and there is not much of a way to accommodate that consistent with keeping the production online," he said.

    The complaint reprises issues that boiled over in May, when 120 Somali workers abruptly quit for similar reasons. About 70 returned a week later, but union officials worried the issue would resurface through the late spring as sunset came later in the evening shift.

    "For three days it was all good and we were praying; there was no hassle, no interference, nothing at all," said Ali Schire, 30, who said he returned to the plant but was later fired for trying to pray.

    "All of a sudden after three days it just all got loose, and they were suspending people, they were firing people," Schire said through an interpreter. "Some of the people even had to give up praying at all for fear of being fired."

    Said Selzer: "These people are absolutely entitled to pray, and they should not be interfered with for doing so. But on the other hand, the only situations that I've been made aware of are people that walk off the job without permission, and that's a different kind of an issue."

    Dan Hoppes, president of Local 22 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said he had not heard of many Somali workers being fired or harassed since May. Prayer breaks are not in the contract, he said, but he hopes to revisit the issue in negotiations in 2010.

    Swift rejected a suggestion by the Council on American-Islamic Relations to allow the Somalis who work evenings to leave in smaller shifts to avoid disrupting lines, said Rima Kapitan, an attorney with the group.

    The company suggested phasing evening workers to shifts earlier in the day that did not interrupt prayer times, Selzer and Hoppes said.

    "We're perfectly happy to try to pursue that angle so that we don't have this conflict," Selzer said. "But given the people who are on the second shift many of whom prefer to be there this sort of presents the operational realities."

    Mohamed said it is important for Muslims to pray within scheduled times and not to postpone prayers or say them early.

    "I would never forgive myself and God would not forgive me if I do not pray on time because I want to earn some money," he said.
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack. -- Gen. George S. Patton

  2. #2
    Baluchitherium loveevhsince79's Avatar
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    It sounds as if management is willing to work with them but it's sort of difficult when they are making the decision to work a shift that does not allow them to pray when they "have to" pray. Seems that they are free to work a different shift or find another job which will allow them to enjoy their religious freedom. It would go along with the Jewish religion not allowing work on Saturdays. It's refreshing that we have a company in Columbus owned by a Jewish family which is not open on Saturdays and has put their religious faith before the all mighty dollar. If there's a will, there's a way but you can't take matters into your own hands and do whatever you want whenever you want.

  3. #3
    Atomic Punk FORD's Avatar
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    Here's a silly question.....

    Why are Muslims working in a meat packing plant in the first place?

    Swift makes sausage. Sausage is made of pork. Islam's dietary laws are similar to that of Judaism, and consider pork unclean. You shouldn't touch the stuff, let alone eat it. (Jews call it "kosher", Muslims call it "halal")

    So it would seem that a Muslim working in such an environment wouldn't take his religion all that seriously in the first place.

    Now that all aside, these guys are entitled to two 15 minute breaks and a lunch during an 8 hour shift, so if they use that break time to talk to Allah, then it ain't anybody's business but theirs and His.
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    Oh, I feel so sorry for American Muslims

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    Atomic Punk onefootoutthedoor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FORD View Post
    Here's a silly question.....

    Why are Muslims working in a meat packing plant in the first place?

    Swift makes sausage. Sausage is made of pork. Islam's dietary laws are similar to that of Judaism, and consider pork unclean. You shouldn't touch the stuff, let alone eat it. (Jews call it "kosher", Muslims call it "halal")

    So it would seem that a Muslim working in such an environment wouldn't take his religion all that seriously in the first place.

    Now that all aside, these guys are entitled to two 15 minute breaks and a lunch during an 8 hour shift, so if they use that break time to talk to Allah, then it ain't anybody's business but theirs and His.

    Swift makes more than just sausage. I went and researched their website a bit. It is quite possible that they did not handle any pork there at all.

    The issue I have is the person who was quoted from Swift said that the problem was with the employees leaving their post without authorization, not with the actual praying. What he skirts around though, is that permission to go pray was initially denied, hence the unauthorized leaving of the post in the first place.

    To me it sounds like the company doesn't want to make the adjustment to allow them to pray, which is pretty sad.
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    Quote Originally Posted by osolomeo View Post
    Oh, I feel so sorry for American Muslims


    Ring a bell at all?

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    Quote Originally Posted by onefootoutthedoor View Post
    Ring a bell at all?

    No, it doesn't.

  8. #8
    Atomic Punk onefootoutthedoor's Avatar
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    Do some research on the blanket racisim that Irish Americans had to endure for years. Remember, not every Muslim is a terrorist looking to take over the world.
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    Quote Originally Posted by onefootoutthedoor View Post
    Do some research on the blanket racisim that Irish Americans had to endure for years. Remember, not every Muslim is a terrorist looking to take over the world.
    Spare me the rhetoric of being so magnanimous. I really don't care about Muslims not getting to stop working to pray, I am glad they were told not to. Its not like my boss or any American business owner would tolerate that shit from anybody. People need to realize that working is a priveledge.

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    Quote Originally Posted by osolomeo View Post
    Spare me the rhetoric of being so magnanimous. I really don't care about Muslims not getting to stop working to pray, I am glad they were told not to. Its not like my boss or any American business owner would tolerate that shit from anybody. People need to realize that working is a priveledge.
    As I said, these guys are entitled to two 15 minute breaks and lunch by law, and if it's a union shop, then you better believe that is enforced as it should be.

    So what does it fucking matter if they pray ON THEIR OWN TIME??

    If you or your boss discriminates against someone on the basis of religion, then you should both go back where ever it is you came from.

    And the Irish comparison is perfect, as the reason they were so discriminated against had a lot to do with their Catholic beliefs. And the Irish have been stereotyped as "terrorists" in some places as well.
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  11. #11
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    Does this fall into freedom of religion?

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
    It seems that congress can't make a law against them not being able to pray, but it doesn't say that the employer can't.

    It's a catch-22 situation. I know most Christians wouldn't be allowed an extra break during the day for prayer.
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    Quote Originally Posted by xaminer View Post
    Does this fall into freedom of religion?



    It seems that congress can't make a law against them not being able to pray, but it doesn't say that the employer can't.

    It's a catch-22 situation. I know most Christians wouldn't be allowed an extra break during the day for prayer.
    That is what I am saying. People shouldn't expect any business to make exception so that they can pray outside of their breaktimes, muslim or not.

  13. #13
    Atomic Punk onefootoutthedoor's Avatar
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    LOL, where does it say they were asking for extra breaks?
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  14. #14
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    The problem isn't that they're Muslem, it's that they're Somalis.

    Somalis are natural bandits, thieves and pirates, the Irish have a sub-sect called "The Travelers", who are professional con-men and swindlers and Somalis that have immagrated here have learned to play the legal system. Last summer you had Muslem taxi drivers refusung to carry passengers that had bottles of alcohol with them and sued when the cab company threatened to fire them under the freedom of religion. They lost, and I hope these clowns lose too.

    It would be like FORD going to work for the RNC and then suing because he feels harrassed and feels that he shouldn't have to be subjected to Republican points of view.

    I simply point to the Amish, they live according to their religious beliefs so they chose to live seperately. Over the years, the Federal and state government have imposed laws on them , the most famous was putting relecters on the rear of their carriages and I believe that they intitially fought this and then later figured that the update wasn't an infringement on their beliefs. The Amish don't take jobs that are in conflict with ther religion, plain and simple and there are places where a Muslem can live a strict Islamic life with little problem. The plant management is willing to work with these clowns yet they prefer to make a stink.

    I just wanted to point out that this is a Somali issue and not a Muslem issue because there are millions of Muslems in this country who go to work every day and find a way to make it work. This just makes it harder for them and that's not fair.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Axxman300 View Post
    It would be like FORD going to work for the RNC and then suing because he feels harrassed and feels that he shouldn't have to be subjected to Republican points of view.
    But FORD would never waste his time doing something so stupid.

    A better example would be right wing evangelicals who spend a lot of time and a lot of money going to pharmacy school and then refusing to fill prescriptions which disagree with their interpretation of religion.
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