Plant Drops Labor Day for Muslim Holiday

WSMV-TV (Nashville), August 1, 2008

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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.

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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. I 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.

“It shouldn’t happen. I mean, I think, we’re in America, you’re in America, I think that they should go with our holidays,” Pentecost said.

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.

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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.

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