Source: The Denver Post
By Kieran Nicholson
About 190 workers, most of them immigrants from Somalia, have been fired from a meat packing and distribution plant on Colorado's Eastern Plains for walking off the job to protest a workplace prayer dispute.
Ten days ago more than 200 workers walked off their jobs at Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan.
Some workers later returned, but the majority stayed away as representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) negotiated on their behalf.
On Tuesday Cargill, through its attorneys, fired the workers who were holding out, said Jaylani Hussein, a spokesman and executive director of CAIR.
Cargill is a Kansas-based company.
Some of the fired employees have been working at the plant for up to 10 years, Hussein said.Cargill had previously allowed Muslim employees to pray at the plant, even providing a prayer room, he said.
Depending on the season, the Muslim workers prayed at different times of the day, typically in about five-to-10 minute blocks, Hussein said. But recently a decision was made at the plant to change the practice.
"The workers were told: 'If you want to pray, go home,' " Hussein said.
Many of the workers, some who support family with their earnings, banded together and decided to walk off the job in an attempt to sway plant managers to reinstate a prayer schedule.
Hussein and Jenifer Wicks, also of CAIR, were negotiating with Cargill. On Tuesday, they were told of the mass firing.
Hussein said company officials told him the mass dismissal was over a "no call, no show, walk out."
"It's disappointing," Hussein said.
The workers have previously been using time carved out of a 15-minute break period, or time from their unpaid 30-minute lunch break.
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