Tyson replaces Labor Day with Muslim Eid al-Fitr
Chicken company: Workers wanted
Islamic religious event recognized
Posted: August 02, 2008
12:10 am Eastern
By Bob Unruh
Food workers at the Shelbyville, Tenn., plant for Tyson Foods, which boasts on its corporate website that it strives "to honor God," will have time off for Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday closing the month of Ramadan, instead of the American tradition Labor Day.
Officials with the company told WND the labor union representing the 1,200 plant workers, including about 700 immigrants from Somalia who largely are Muslim, sought the holiday change in the new five-year contract, and the company agreed.
Officials with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union issue a press statement about the new "contract [that] creates an additional paid holiday, [Eid al-Fitr,] a Muslim holiday that occurs toward the end of Ramadan."
A spokeswoman at the union's office told WND no one was in the office today who could comment on the request.
To the Shelbyville Times-Gazette, Gary Mickelson, Tyson's media chief, said there is no new holiday, but at the union's request the company agreed to discontinue the Labor Day holiday and implement Eid al-Fitr.
"Union leadership did request and receive Eid al-Fitr (which is apparently spelled various ways including Id al-Fitr and Eid ul-Fitr) as a paid holiday in place of Labor Day," Mickelson told the newspaper.
"Since all Team Members will still have eight paid holidays, the change will not affect production," Mickelson said.
On the paper'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 anonymous 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."
The holiday comes at the conclusion of the month-long Ramadan for Muslims, but it not on the same day each year. Officials with Tyson said they were working out how best to address what apparently now will be a floating holiday for the company.
Mickelson said other holidays for the company workers include birthday, New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
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.
"This is America, founded by the blood of our forefathers and should not be challenged by Somalians, 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," said another anonymous forum participant.
"Disgusting ... appalling ... horrifying ... there just aren't enough words to describe this situation. There will never be another Tyson product in my home EVER!! Bedford County and the rest of the nation needs to take notice. Is this what we are coming to?" said another.
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 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."