In an attempt to pressure Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan, Colorado, to accommodate their prayer demands, over 200 Muslim workers walked off their jobs twelve days ago. But the strike backfired badly because the meatpacking plant fired approximately 190 of the workers, most of them immigrants from Somalia.
Via the Denver Post:
Some workers later returned, but the majority stayed away as representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) negotiated on their behalf.
On Tuesday Cargill, through its attorneys, fired the workers who were holding out, said Jaylani Hussein, a spokesman and executive director of CAIR.
Some of the fired employees have been working at the plant for up to 10 years, Hussein said.
The dispute stemmed from the company’s policies regarding a prayer room they have provided for Muslims at the plant.
Hussein claimed that the Muslim workers had previously been allowed to pray at “different times of the day, typically in about five-to-10 minute blocks.”
Mike Martin, director of communications for Cargill, told The Greeley Tribune that “employees of all faiths are allowed to use a reflection area, but that because employees work on an assembly line only one or two at a time can use the area to avoid slowing production.”
According to Hussein, the workers were told, “If you want to pray, go home.”
The workers decided to walk off the job in an attempt to pressure plant managers to give in to their prayer demands while Hussein and Jenifer Wicks, also of CAIR, negotiated with Cargill:
On Tuesday, they were told of the mass firing.
Hussein said company officials told him the mass dismissal was over a “no call, no show, walk out.”
“It’s disappointing,” Hussein said.
CAIR is now asking Cargill to rehire the workers, even though the company has a policy stating that “any workers who are terminated can not reapply for a position for 6 months.”
Meanwhile, “the workers continue to express their desire to be allowed a prayer break,” Hussein said.
Cargill told 9NEWS that their attendance and religious accommodation policy had not changed.
“In the Fort Morgan plant, a reflection area for use by all employees to pray was established in April 2009, and is available during work shifts based on our ability to adequately staff a given work area,” the Cargill statement to 9NEWS reads. “While reasonable efforts are made to accommodate employees, accommodation is not guaranteed every day and is dependent on a number of factors that can, and do, change from day to day. This has been clearly communicated to all employees. Cargill makes every reasonable attempt to provide religious accommodation to all employees based on our ability to do so without disruption to our beef processing business at Fort Morgan.”