Changing Workforce

Cargill fires about 180 Somali workers after prayer dispute

By Mike Hughlett for the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Jan 04, 2016

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Cargill has fired around 180 workers at a northeastern Colorado meatpacking plant after a dispute over access to Muslim prayer time.

Last week, roughly 200 Somali employees at a large beef-processing plant in Fort Morgan essentially walked off the job after claiming that Cargill wasn’t allowing some workers to take prayer breaks.

In the Muslim faith, prayer is required five times a day, a mandate that has sometimes led to conflicts with U.S. employers, particularly meatpackers with largely immigrant workforces.

The Minnetonka-based agribusiness giant says it has long accommodated such prayer breaks, and that after the Somali workers did not show up for work for three consecutive days, Cargill terminated their employment.

The Somali workers didn’t report for work after long-standing tensions over prayer breaks at the plant culminated in an incident Dec. 18 in which some workers were denied such breaks by supervisors, said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has interceded on behalf of the Colorado workers.

Read more on how tensions between workers and shop floor supervisors over prayer breaks at the Cargill plant had been building for some time.