Workers get Muslim day off this year but not in future
By Bob Unruh,

Workers at the Shelbyville, Tenn., plant for Tyson Foods – which boasts on its corporate website that it strives “to honor God” – will get the Muslim Eid al-Fitr as a holiday this year, but not in the future unless they choose to give up their birthday as a day off, the company announced.

The company recently had agreed to a request from the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union to replace the traditional American workers’ holiday Labor Day with the Muslim holiday that closes the fasting month of Ramadan.

But officials for Tyson said Labor Day has been reinstated and Eid al-Fitr dropped after it acquired permission from the union to change the contract.

“Tyson made this request on behalf of its Shelbyville plant employees, some of whom had expressed concern about the new contract provisions relative to paid holidays,” the company told WND. “In an effort to be responsive, Tyson asked the union to reopen the contract to address the holiday issue, and the union agreed to do so. The union membership voted overwhelmingly to reinstate Labor Day as one of the plant’s paid holidays, while keeping Eid al-Fitr as an additional paid holiday for this year only. This means that in 2008 only, Shelbyville employees will have nine paid holidays.”

The company said that for the remainder of the five-year contract period, the eight paid holidays will include: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and a “personal holiday,” which could either be the employee’s birthday, Eid al-Fitr, or another day requested and approved by their supervisor.

“This issue concerns only the plant at Shelbyville, Tenn. Labor Day has always been celebrated, and continues to be, at the other 118 Tyson plants across the country,” officials said.

WND reported Tyson had agreed to the request from the RWDSU for the change in holidays because about 700 immigrants from Somalia who largely are Muslim are among the 1,200 plant workers.

Union officials had boasted of the new contract creating “an additional paid holiday, a Muslim holiday that occurs toward the end of Ramadan.”

Union officials did not respond to WND requests for a comment.

But Gary Mickelson, Tyson’s media chief, clarified that there was no “additional” holiday, the company had just agreed to discontinue Labor Day and implement Eid al-Fitr.

“Union leadership did request and receive Eid al-Fitr … as a paid holiday in place of Labor Day,” Mickelson told a local newspaper at the time. “Since all Team Members will still have eight paid holidays, the change will not affect production,” he said.
On a local newspaper’s forum page, readers were outraged.

“If this holiday is that important to them, make them take it off instead of Christmas Day and allow ALL workers to be off Labor Day. Most AMERICAN families have some type of function on Labor Day,” wrote one participant.

“It says union leadership made this request, makes you wonder who runs the union. I guess they are already working on a plan to replace Memorial Day, that means nothing to the Muslims so why should we have the right to celebrate it. Labor Day commemorates the plight of workers and the struggle of labor unions to improve working conditions for American workers. The Muslims will not stop until all of our rights and laws are changed to accommodate their beliefs. This will be a new America but it will be their America,” said another.

The union boasts on its website, “Diversity is one of the strengths of our union. … We may come from different countries and speak different languages. But what unites us is the belief that by standing together we can better advance our interests.”

Union spokesman Randy Hadley told the newspaper, “The negotiating committee felt this was extremely crucial, since this holiday is as important to Muslims as Christmas is to Christians.”

The union also reported “two prayer rooms have been created to allow Muslim workers to pray twice a day and return to work without leaving the plant.”

Ironically, the company on its website also promotes a variety of traditional and customary Christian and secular blessings for food – its primary product.

Another forum participant said immigrants should adjust to American culture, not the other way around.

“This is America, founded by the blood of our forefathers and should not be challenged by Somalians [sic], Hispanics, or any other immigrants. If they come to America, they need to learn our language and our ways. They can practice their culture in private if they so please, but not shove it down our throats. Would they let us go there and change there country? I have banned Tyson’s products from my home for years because of the illegals they were hiring. I am sorry for the producers that are supplying them, but Tyson’s has once again crossed the line with the American people. Labor Day was here long before Tyson’s. What holiday will be next to be taken away and replaced to accommodate an immigrant. This stinks worse than the plant,” the forum participant said.

A Muslim website says the holiday is a “joyous three-day celebration” that concludes Ramadan, during which Muslims fast during the day.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the Labor Day national holiday dates from Sept. 5, 1882, and is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

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