Somali immigrant Halimo Ahmed at Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan.
Source: Joe Amon, The Denver Post
Just before New Years, Cargill Meat Solutions. fired 190 Somali émigré meatpackers at their plant in Fort Morgan, Colorado. The company is headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, a business unit of the global Cargill, Inc. headquartered in Minneapolis. 200 Somali Muslim workers had staged a walkout on December 18th protesting processing line restrictions for time off to fulfill daily prayers. Cargill had endeavored to set up arrangements at the Fort Morgan plant to assure production continuity and set aside a room at the facility that employees of various religious persuasions could avail themselves of.
CAIR, the self-styled Muslim civil rights group and Muslim Brotherhood front, had intervened on behalf of the fired workers to negotiate a waiver from a Cargill employment policy that those fired would not have to what to wait six months before being re-hired. There have been allegations by both CAIR and Somali workers at the Cargill Fort Morgan facility that their rights to freedom of worship under the First Amendment were being assaulted and their obligation to fulfill their Islamic daily prayers superseded production schedules. Commentary in the media implored the parties in the dispute to resolve their differences somehow preserving worship for Somali workers under Sharia. Note this Denver Post, editorial, “Religious liberty and the Cargill meatpacking plant:”
In a workplace like meatpacking with a production line, agreeing to requests for daily prayer can be extremely tricky — especially if several workers wish to leave their post at the same time. But it's important that employers attempt to resolve the difficulties and, when possible, meet workers' desire to practice their faith.
In fact, it's a distinctly American responsibility given our First Amendment's "free exercise" clause that guarantees religious liberty. That liberty is eroded to the extent that deeply valued religious traditions are impossible to exercise.
That's why it is somewhat disheartening, if perhaps not surprising, that only 61 percent of Americans in a new survey say it is very important or extremely important that Muslims be allowed to practice their faith freely, compared to 82 percent who say that about Christians.
This is not the first such occurrences in arc of meat packing plants extending from Greeley, Colorado to Fort Morgan and Grand Isle in Western Nebraska. There were similar work stoppages in 2008 and 2009 during Ramadan at the JBSwift, Inc. plant in Greeley, Colorado. The 2009 work stoppage led to protests by community groups opposing Shariah compliance siding with Hispanic workers at the Greely, JB Swift plant. See August 2009 New English Revew article, “Greeley, Colorado Christian Zionist Group Protest Somali-Imposed Sharia in their Community.”
Moreover, as we wrote in a November 2009 Iconoclast post, there was a probable honor killing of a female relative employed at Cargill plant in Fort Morgan by a JBSwift Somali émigré worker in Greeley . The influx of Somali émigré workers began following a 2006 raid by the DHS ICE at the JBSwift plant in Greeley resulting in the firing of illegal immigrant Hispanic workers.
We wrote in our August 2009 New English Review article:
Greeley, Colorado, as Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize winning author of “The Looming Tower” has written, is the birthplace of Al Qaeda. That is where in 1948, an Egyptian foreign exchange student, Sayyid Qutb, was so offended by American culture, especially ‘obscene’ close slow dancing which he witnessed at a Church social, that he resolved to fight it by returning to the roots of Jihadist Political Islam and Sharia. His book "Milestones” chronicled his spiritual epiphany in Greeley. Subsequently he was jailed, tried and hung by the late Egyptian President and dictator, Gamal Abdel Nasser. His writing was the foundation of what became the Al Qaeda movement headed by Osama bin Laden, the perpetrator of 9/11.
Note this report from the Denver Post, “Dispute Over Prayer Leads to Firing of Nearly 200 Muslims at Meat Plant:”
Cargill Meat Solutions said Thursday it tried to resolve a workplace prayer dispute with Somali workers at its Fort Morgan meatpacking plant that led to the firing of about 190 employees.
The workers who lost their jobs were mostly immigrants from Somalia, and their termination came after they failed to report to work for three consecutive days last week to protest what they say were changes in times allowed for Muslim prayer.
Cargill says, however, it makes every "reasonable attempt" to provide religious accommodation for all of its employees at the Fort Morgan plant without interrupting operations.
"At no time did Cargill prevent people from prayer at Fort Morgan," said Michael Martin, a spokesman for the Wichita-based company, which is part of the agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. " Nor have we changed policies related to religious accommodation and attendance. This has been mischaracterized."
Cargill also said while reasonable efforts are made to accommodate employees, accommodation is not guaranteed every day and depends on changing factors in the plant.
"This has been clearly communicated to all employees," Martin said.
But the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is representing more than 100 of the fired employees, said Thursday that messaging from plant supervisors has not always been so clear.
On Dec. 18, the Friday before employee protests began Dec. 21, "the workers were told: 'If you want to pray, go home,' " CAIR spokesman Jaylani Hussein said.
"To these employees, that is what it is. Maybe Cargill never changed its policy, but to these employees, they feel whatever the policy is, or how it is implemented, there was a change put in place," Hussein said.
Cargill provides a "reflection room" at the plant where observant Muslim workers are allowed to pray, something that has been available since 2009.
Hussein said depending on the season, the workers pray at different times of the day, typically taking five to 10 minutes away from their work. The time was carved out of a 15-minute break period or from the workers' unpaid 30-minute lunch breaks.
Many of the workers banded together and decided to walk off the job in an attempt to sway plant managers to reinstate the prayer policy.
"They feel missing their prayer is worse than losing their job," Hussein said. "It's like losing a blessing from God."
On Dec. 23, Cargill fired the holdouts who had not returned to work, citing a company policy that employees who do not show up for work or call in for three consecutive days will be let go.
"It's an unfortunate situation that may be based somewhere in a misunderstanding," Martin said. "But the policies have been in place, and we go over the policies for all people who are newly hired to the company when they are hired."
Watch this Denver CBS Channel 9 News video discussion of the Cargill Fort Morgan dispute with Somail meatpackers: