SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. — Some workers at a local plant will no longer to be able to take their Labor Day holiday because of religious reasons.
Workers at the Tyson Foods poultry processing plant in Shelbyville will no longer have a paid day off on Labor Day but will instead be granted the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr.
According to a news release from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, a new five-year contract at the plant included the change to accommodate Muslim workers at the plant.
Tyson’s director of media relations Gary Mickelson said the contract includes eight paid holidays — the same number as the old contract.
Eid al-Fitr — which falls on Oct. 1 this year — marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.
Union leaders said implementing the holiday was important for the nearly 700 Muslims, many of them Somalis, who work at the plant that employs a total of 1,200 people.
Nineteen-year plant veteran William Pentecost doesn’t agree with the decision.
“I don’t think it’s right; really don’t think it’s right,” he said.
Tyson company spokeswoman Libby Lawson said by phone that, “This isn’t a religious accommodation, this is a contractual agreement. The majority asked for it.”
The change didn’t bother some workers.
“I think it’s fine. I don’t have any problem with it. There’s a whole bunch of them here, so they’ve got to do something for them,” said worker John Smith.
Channel 4’s Cynthia Williams could not reach any of the plant’s Muslim workers, because Channel 4 News’ crew was not permitted on the property.
Former employee and Shelbyville resident Anthony Proctor said he thinks what’s happening is wrong.
He said he helped build a special Muslim prayer room that’s located inside the plant and that no other Tyson facility has been that accommodating for any other religion.
“If we want to go pray, we don’t have one for Christians,” he said.
Tyson is headquartered in Arkansas.
Lawson said they consider religious accommodations on a case-by-case basis. She said that so far, no one has asked for any other type of religious prayer room.
No one at the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s regional office answered phone calls placed by Williams on Friday.
A representative in New York said that no one there knew specifics about the new contract with the workers, but a person in research told Williams that holidays aren’t usually replaced and are more likely to be added on.
The decision will only apply to workers at the plant who are union members. All other employees at the plant will still have their normal Labor Day holiday.
Source: WSMV TV4, Nashville
Something to keep in mind when you go grocery shopping.
Update: Tyson has taken a huge hit from increased grain prices; they surely can’t afford to piss off consumers.
Things weren’t so rosy for Tyson, which warned that its U.S. chicken business will take longer than expected to recover from high feed costs. Tyson’s net for the fiscal third quarter ended June 28 plunged 92% to $9 million, or 3 cents, as revenue rose 3.5% to $6.8 billion. An operating loss of $44 million in Tyson’s chicken business largely offset profits at the Springdale, Ark., company’s beef and pork businesses.
“Dick Bond, Tyson’s CEO, told investors that he expected the company’s corn and soybean costs to be about $550 million higher this year than last. So far, Tyson says, it hasn’t been able to pass along the higher costs to consumers, but Mr. Bond warned that higher prices are on the horizon.
“The consumer really hasn’t felt the $6 and $7 grain markets yet, either on beef, pork or chicken,” he said. “We are going to see the effects of that coming through at some point in time.”
Source: Wall Street Journal