Grand Island Swift plant expects more problems when Ramadan begins in August

Don’t you just love these stories about how diversity is strength

Here is an update from Grand Island, NE of the story we created a whole category for last fall.  Big meatpackers, like Swift & Co. are apparently still having on-going conflicts between immigrant workers—workers they employ so they can keep wages low.

Last September, culture and religion came to the forefront at the JBS Swift & Co. meatpacking plant.

About 500 Swift workers, all Muslim and most Somali, walked off the job and marched a mile to Grand Island City Hall to protest for religious freedom. They wanted prayer time during the holy month of Ramadan.

The plant’s attempt to accommodate the requests led to counterprotests staged by Caucasians, Hispanics, Vietnamese and African-Americans.

Six months later, despite efforts to understand better the work force and its cultures, Swift and union officials believe the turmoil is far from over.

Established Hispanic workers are angry at the newer immigrants.

Stephanie Riak Akeui, a Grand Island-based consultant on Sudanese and humanitarian issues, said a growing number of workers from southern Sudan have approached her about alleged discrimination at the Swift plant.

The acts come not from Swift administration but rather from other immigrant workers.

“The complaints range from verbal abuse to physical taunts and allegations,” Riak Akeui said.

Riak Akeui said the stress and tension seem to be coming from the more established immigrant populations, such as Latino workers, against the newest immigrants.

It was stress seen during the counterprotests last September as Hispanic workers complained of concessions being made for Somali workers who hadn’t been at the plant as long as more established immigrant workers.

Muslim demands cause Christian Africans to get a bad rap too.

There also seem to be misunderstandings about the differences in two of the newest immigrant populations — the Sudanese and Somali workers, who collectively comprise 16 percent of the Swift work force.

Although both come from Africa, the Sudanese population is largely Christian while the Somalis are predominately Muslim.

Riak Akeui said immigrant workers frustrated with requests made by Muslim staff often show that frustration to all African workers, many of whom are not Muslim.

Readers, it looks like we will be seeing you back here in August for a new round of stealth jihad demands by Somali Muslim workers.

“As far as Ramadan and break time, I’ll be honest, we don’t have a clear-cut plan yet,” Hoppes (Dan Hoppes, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local No. 22) said.

“In order to do what they really want us to do, you have to shut off production, and that just isn’t going to happen,” he said. “The company has the right to run.”

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