Muslim Leader Says 150 Workers Fired at Neb. Plant

September 19, 2008

Author: Jean Ortiz

Source: The Associated Press

About 150 Muslims were fired from a Grand Island, Neb., meatpacking plant that has been embroiled in a prayer dispute, a Somali-American leader said Friday.

Mohamed Rage, who leads the Omaha Somali-American Community Organization, said 80 workers were thrown out after an altercation late Thursday. He says when they tried to return for their shift Friday, they were fired, along with 70 others.

Police said were called to the plant late Thursday amid reports of a riot or serious fight. But when officers arrived, the situation had calmed, said police Chief Steve Lamken.

Muslim workers have been asking for accommodations with break times to allow prayer at sunset. The issue led to walkouts this week — not only from Muslims but from non-Muslims who protested such accommodations as preferential treatment. JBS Swift & Co. officials have not returned repeated calls seeking comment. Officials did not refer to any terminations in a statement released Friday, but said problems at the plant were over people walking off the job without proper authorization, not about religion.