According to Religion News Service the recent conflict over prayer times at two Swift meatpacking plants may be the beginning of a Muslim labor movement in the US.
Hundreds of Muslim workers at two meat processing plants in Colorado and Nebraska walked off the job earlier this month, protesting their employer’s refusal to grant time to pray and break a 12-hour fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
About 100 workers were fired in Greeley, Colo., followed by about 80 in Grand Island, Neb. JBS Swift & Co. insists the terminations had nothing to do with religion, but rather with employees refusing to return to work.
Whatever its outcome, the stand-off and others like it may mark the start of a grassroots Muslim labor movement in the United States, as immigrants push for the kinds of religious accommodations they believe their Christian counterparts take for granted.
“American Muslims in recent years have become more organized and aware of our rights as Americans,” said Ameena Mirza Qazi, a staff attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “As American Muslims become more a part of the American fabric — as educators, professionals, leaders, day laborers, and factory workers — we increasingly avail ourselves of rights that every American values.”
I maintain that the whole episode was orchestrated from on high, but there was a fly in the ointment. The strategists didn’t count on the angry vocal backlash from other minorities working in the plants. I am sure they figured the Somalis would demand special prayer time breaks and the management would cave. That didn’t happen.
About one-fifth of the workers at the two JBS Swift plants are Muslim, many of them Somali immigrants. The United Food and Commercial Workers union represents employees at both sites, but has had trouble negotiating because of counter-protests by other workers, who say it’s not fair to grant time off to a religious minority.
According to this article, Muslims aren’t ready to strike out on their own and start their own unions. They know they can’t succeed unless they work for all minorities rights. They aren’t powerful enough yet so they must take cover in groups like this Leftist Interfaith Worker Justice and hope that people like Kim Bobo keep saying this sort of hogwash.
Interfaith Worker Justice, a national organization that engages the religious community in low-wage worker issues, is carefully watching the recent protests. When a union works on behalf of Muslim immigrants, as with a contract for Ohio janitors negotiated to include prayer breaks last year, the wider community benefits from increased dialogue and cross-cultural cooperation, said Kim Bobo, IWJ executive director. [What does that mean? I guess its similar to diversity enriching our lives.]
Several readers have noted that all seems quiet in the last week from Greeley and Ft. Morgan and that is because CAIR is on the scene. They know the Stealth Jihad was NOT going along so stealthily when you have Hispanics, Vietnamese and Sudanese taking to the streets against the Somalis, so I am convinced they are trying to cool things down.
CAIR and local Muslim organizations are working on public education campaigns to reduce hostility against such requests. CAIR has also asked the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission to set up workshops to help the employees file discrimination charges against Swift, Abraham [CAIR honcho from Chicago] said.
More on CAIR and the EEOC here.
Note to readers: We need someone to blog on foundations that back groups like Interfaith Worker Justice. Check out their financial statement and notice the big foundations funding them. Years ago I did some research on the foundations funding the major environmental groups in the US and it was many of the same cast of characters. It was very revealing because I learned that many of the policies the groups esposed were coming directly from the foundations. It wasn’t just a case of the so-called grassroots group developing positions and being then funded by big money old line families (Rockefeller, Mellon, Pew etc.) these foundations often told the grassroots group what to do.