Somali Muslims Returning to Jobs

May 25, 2007


Source: Houston Chronicle

Wire Service: AP

OMAHA, Neb. — Dozens of Somali meatpacking workers who quit their jobs because they were not given enough time off for Muslim prayers have returned to work, but the issue could resurface as sundown inches later through the spring, a union official said Friday.

About 70 of 120 Somali workers are back on the job at the Swift & Co. meatpacking plant after abruptly quitting last week. The workers complained that existing break time rules did not let them leave lines to pray at sundown.

Similar requests for workplace accommodations of Muslim religious obligations have become common around the country, say Muslim advocates.

"I don't know how it's going to work, and I feel bad about it," said Dan Hoppes, president of Local 22 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Later sunsets could run past allotted breaks that keep workers from long stretches on production lines.

"We do those things to prevent injuries and to give them a little rest," Hoppes said.