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Judging from my e-mail, a lot of folks are hopping mad about this weekend’s story from the Shelbyville, Tennessee Times-Gazette concerning Tyson Foods’ decision to replace the paid Labor Day holiday with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Brian Moselely reports that there are 700 Muslims working at the 1,200-employee plant, including some 250 Somali refugees:
Workers at Tyson Foods’ poultry processing plant in Shelbyville will no longer have a paid day off on Labor Day, but will instead take the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr in the fall.
A recent press release from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) stated that a new contract at the Shelbyville facility “implements a new holiday to accommodate the … Muslim workers at the plant.”
The RWDSU stated that “the five-year contract creates an additional paid holiday, Iidal Fitil, a Muslim holiday that occurs toward the end of Ramadan.”
Eid al-Fitr falls on Oct. 1 this year.
…The press release stated there are approximatly 700 Muslims working at Tyson, but Mickelson said that Somalis only represent approximately 250 of the 1,200 employed at the plant, a little over 20 percent of the workforce.
“All Team Members who have completed their probationary period are eligible for all eight paid holidays including Eid al-Fitr,” the Tyson spokeman said.
The union also claimed that in addition to the observance of the Muslim holiday, “two prayer rooms have been created to allow Muslim workers to pray twice a day and return to work without leaving the plant.”
Check out the comments section at the end of the article for a taste of the local (and growing) backlash against Tyson.
The Times-Gazette reporter, Brian Moseley, has a background piece on his story that’s worth reading. After noting how quickly the story has spread across the wires and the Internet, he writes:
So what do I think about all this?
Clearly, the accommodations given to the Muslims have upset a great many people here and across the county, especially if they believe, as many apparently do, that their traditional values are being suppressed in the name of cultural diversity and political correctness. More than one person has told me that their tolerance only goes so far, and this is obviously one of those times.
I have stated my opinions about the refugee issue itself before. It is my personal opinion that the drive to bring so many refugees to America are not prompted by just good will or concern for the plight of these poor people, but instead for the millions of dollars in federal grants that are available for settling them in this country. According to Chris Coen, who is trying to help out refugees of all nationalities, there is a lot of money to be made in this “profession.”
I also need point out that it would appear that some of these refugees are being used for other reasons. I find some of the allegations about these employment arrangements to be awfully similar to this sort of thing, and it should not be tolerated.
I also have to say that I do not feel that I am “obsessed” or “fixated” with the topic of Somalis living here, as one blogger believes. The refugees have lived in Shelbyville for the past four years, and no one has even addressed the issue until the T-G published the series in December of last year.
I would also have to suggest that the blogger’s opinion is quite possibly influenced by the fact that she makes her living by working with the Nashville refugee community, as she states on one of her other websites.
I am simply reporting on what happens when hundreds of people from a totally alien culture suddenly move to a small town in the rural south — both the good and the bad. I can not control how people are going to react to my stories.
In closing, I’ll just say that I’m going to continue to keep looking into the various issues surrounding our new neighbors so that our community can stay informed. That’s what we’re here for. And that’s what I’m going to do.
I have a feeling it won’t be long before CAIR comes knocking on his paper’s door.