Muslim workers, mainly from East Africa, and their employers, JBS Swift, appear to have reached at least a short-term compromise allowing some shift workers to observe the holy month of Ramadan after a brief show of strength from the workers Wednesday outside the Swift plant in north Greeley.
As part of the religion, Muslims must fast from sunrise to sunset every day of the month. Second shift workers would not have a chance to break the fast until about 9 p.m., according to a swift worker and Ibrahim Mohamed, the case manager at Lutheran Family Services, which has helped Somali refugees in the United States.
Ibrahim said he had met with several Muslim workers who had asked their supervisor on Tuesday if they could break early because of the Ramadan fast. The workers were initially refused.
Workers collected on site Wednesday before their shift to talk with plant officials. Repeated messages left with several JBS Swift officials at their offices and on cell phones seeking comment from the company were not returned Wednesday.
Supervisors later told the workers they would accommodate the schedule change that night and would have a formal policy announcement today, Ibrahim said.
"They made their voices heard," he said. Ibrahim said he advised several people against quitting their jobs or protesting. He told them it was important to work with Swift supervisors.
"Everything is negotiable," he said.
Swift employee Kadar Maxamed, himself a Muslim, said he was aware of the problem, although his early shift allowed him to eat at the proper time. He said Muslim workers felt it was too long to ask the workers to go without food from sunup until about 9 p.m.
"They need to break to eat," he said. (MORE)