Tyson Plant Drops Labor Day for Muslim Holiday

Workers at a Tyson Foods poultry processing plant in Tennessee have decided to trade a paid Labor Day holiday for the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Fitr.

The members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union at the Shelbyville, Tenn., plant approved a 5-year contract that includes the change to accommodate Muslim workers.

“The negotiating committee made the holiday a top priority in contract talks,” the union’s Alabama and Mid-South Council Representative Randy Hadley said. “And we were able to get management to commit to it.”

The contract exchanges Labor Day for the Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. The new contract, negotiated last fall, also gives Muslim workers a special prayer room. The change has not affected the company’s 118 other plants.

“Eid al-Fitr is one of eight paid holidays for all team members covered by the contract, while Labor Day is not a paid holiday,” Gary Mickelson, Tyson’s media relations director, told the Shelbyville Times-Gazette.

The seven additional paid holidays are the employee’s birthday, New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, Mickelson said.

“Given the nature of our work, many, many, many times we have to work holidays anyway, and Labor Day is usually one of those holidays that our workers have to work,” Lawson said. “And, of course, they are paid holiday pay when they have to work any holiday that is recognized at our facility.”

Tyson officials said that approximately 250 of the plant’s 1,200 employees are Somalis who entered the United States as political refugees. Most, if not all, are believed to be Muslim — among them, Abdillahi Jama.

Abdillahi Jama said in the union’s press release “This new contract is good because it allows me to work on the second shift and still pray when I need to,” he also said “It’s very important to us, and the Eid is one of our most sacred holidays. It shows how the union helps us.”

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