The standoff between some 180 Somali workers at one of the meat packaging plants of Cargill in northeastern Colorado started over a dispute on access to prayer time for the Muslims.
Last week some 200 employees in one of Fort Morgan’s large beef processing plants walked off their jobs after claiming that their employer (Cargill) was no allowing prayer breaks for some workers. Cargill is a giant in agribusiness in the Minneapolis area and according to the company it has accommodated prayer breaks for long. But, after some Somali workers failed to turn up for work even after 3 consecutive days, they were terminated. The incident on 18 December was a culmination of tensions between some Somali workers and the company on prayer breaks at the plant.
.Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of CAIR, Minnesota chapter, stated that supervisors at the plant had denied prayer breaks for some workers. He added that on 18 December some people were given a chance to pray, but the majority did not and that when the supervisor was questioned, the workers were told that if they did not want to work, they could go home.
Cargill has operations in 68 countries and has an employee strength exceeding 155,000.
In Colorado, CAIR is expected to hold a news conference to convey the results of its ongoing efforts at finding a resolution the walkout issue. The Muslim works, as well as CAIR, claim that the request for prayer accommodation has been handled by plant managers in a discriminatory manner.
CAIR and the Muslim workers say the prayer accommodation request has been handled in a discriminatory manner by plant managers.
Over 100 workers who walked out are Muslim employees of Somali heritage, and CAIR has been retained to represent them regarding their request for religious accommodation and to work with Cargill to design and implement a workable solution that addresses the needs of all parties.
However, CAIR representatives could not reach any agreement after a conference call with the legal representatives of Cargill in Kansas. CAIR is the largest advocacy organization for Muslim civil rights and stated that it would be reviewing all legal options available to protect the rights of the workers. In the past, CAIR has successfully negotiated a resolution to similar issues.