JBS Swift & Company plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, had worked out an agreement with the union to allow Muslim workers special breaks to pray, especially at sunset during Ramadan. However, they found that the agreement was not working with too much work time being lost and non-Muslims being alienated to the point that they staged a walk out.
Originally, Muslim workers had walked off the job demanding special break times to do their traditional prayers. Then union leaders had supported a plan of accommodation which was accepted by the Swift plant officials. However, this left only non-Muslims on the line to continue the work at times and the production began to run behind schedule.
Now, the accommodation has been rescinded and in the aftermath 86 employees, mostly Muslims, were fired because they continued leave their work places without authorization.
Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado) cited a similar problem with Muslim prayer-time accommodation at a plant in Greeley, Colorado and commented:
“The fact is that, if you take a job that requires your attendance on an assembly line from a point certain to a point certain, and if your religious views do not allow you to do that, then don’t take the job. …There is nothing forcing anybody to take the job. No one has put a gun to their head[s] and said, ‘You must be on this line.’”
Response: It will be interesting to see the full and continuing reactions to this development. Muslims all over the country are beginning to ask or make demands for religious accommodations at work. A few short years ago this was unheard of–in fact it was never an issue before 9/11/01.
I am with Rep. Tancredo on this one. For instance, if the meat plant decides to process pork will the Muslim workers walk off the job and demand a change? I am in favor of all religious accommodations which make sense and do not actually affect production. However, I do believe that Muslims need to find jobs that naturally accommodate their faith and do not result in confrontations like this.
As more Muslims immigrate to the U.S. we can expect more of these situations to come to the forefront. Already their have been instances where Muslim cabbies refused to pick up passengers carrying liquor, or WalMart checkers who refused to handle bacon or ham items at the check stand.