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Muslims Protest, Swift Caves – In Nebraska

From Nebraska’s Grand Island Independent:

Muslim protest for right to prayer

By Tracy Overstreet
The Grand Island Independent
Posted Sep 15, 2008

GRAND ISLAND — A group of 500 Muslim workers from Grand Island’s JBS Swift & Co. plant staged a protest Monday afternoon.

Members of the B shift (3 to 11:30 p.m.) and some members of the morning A shift walked off the job after being denied time to pray during what they said is the holiest of times for them — Ramadan.

A group of protesting women said they were kicked by a supervisor when they attempted to pray at work.

Asha Abdi said she knelt to pray when the supervisor said, “You can’t pray here,” kicked her feet and told her to go home.

Another woman, Hawo Mohammed, said she told her production supervisor she needed to go to the bathroom. She attempted to pray quickly in the bathroom until the male supervisor followed her in and told her she was taking too long.

“The main point is freedom for religion,” said Ridwan Abbi, a second-shift production worker who gladly supported his peers.

The workers said they pray about four to five times a day — two times of which fall during the A shift schedule and two of which fall during the B shift.

“The company said we aren’t going to give you any time to pray, but this is a free country,” said Ahmed Abdi, a spokesman for the largely Somalian group, who formerly worked at the plant. “We are Muslim and this country is about freedom.”

The protesters walked about a mile from the Swift plant to Grand Island City Hall about 3:30 p.m. Monday carrying hand-lettered signs professing religious freedom.

After grouping in the parking lot at Grand Island City Hall, waving American flags and speaking to the media for about 20 minutes, the march continued into downtown Grand Island.

Grand Island police officers stopped Highway 30 traffic on Second Street as the protesters peacefully weaved their way through downtown.

Abdi said the protests will continue with each shift until something is done.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “We came to City Hall today to let the leaders know this is serious.”

A call to Swift’s corporate office in Greeley, Colo., was not returned, but the company has apparently reacted to similar conflicts in Greeley by terminating workers.

Swift spokeswoman Tamara Smid was quoted by Colorado media that more than 100 workers at the Greeley plant had been fired last week after a similar prayer dispute involving Muslim workers there.

Ramadan involves fasting from dawn until dusk until the month-long holy season ends Oct. 1 with a feasting celebration known as Eid ul-Fitr.

Last spring about 125 Somali workers resigned from the Grand Island Swift plant, but about 70 returned to work after Swift and the workers’ union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local No. 22, worked on the issue. The plant said then it couldn’t accommodate prayer time, but did move many Somalis to earlier shifts that better fit their prayer schedule.

Asha Abdi tells the story of how a supervisor kicked her feet when she knelt to pray at JBS Swift & Co. Grand Island plant. Abdi, who is Muslim, was told she couldn’t pray and was told to go home.

But have no fear. The courageous Swift officials are already announcing that they are ready to cave in to these latest demands:

Swift responds to protests

By Tracy Overstreet
The Grand Island Independent
Posted Sep 16, 2008

GRAND ISLAND — Amid protesting for the right to pray at work, no Muslim workers at the JBS Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in Grand Island have been fired, company officials said Monday night.

“An issue has arisen at our Grand Island facility regarding the sunset prayer during Ramadan and the timing for our second-shift lunch break,” JBS spokeswoman Tamara Smid said.

About 500 Swift workers, all Muslim and mostly of Somali background, walked off the job Monday afternoon and marched a mile to Grand Island City Hall carrying handmade signs in a call for religious freedom.

The workers said they have been unable to pray during their holiest month, Ramadan, which occurs on Sept. 1 through 30 this year.

One woman worker said she was kicked by a supervisor when she attempted to pray. Another woman said she was followed into the bathroom by a supervisor when she attempted to pray there.

Smid said the company is seeking assistance on how to address the issue.

“Area religious leaders have been notified that restrictions regarding these breaks prevent us from precisely accommodating requests for an evening prayer break,” she said. “It is our understanding that these leaders will notify employees.”

A similar prayer conflict arose at JBS’s plant at corporate headquarters in Greeley, Colo. Smid said about 100 employees there were fired, but that action has not occurred in Grand Island.

“At this time, we have taken no disciplinary action and no employees have been terminated,” Smid said of the Grand Island plant.

Mind you, all of this nonsense is happening in Nebraska.


This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, September 16th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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