Last month, nearly 200 Muslim workers at a Colorado beef-processing plant, many of them Somali immigrants, lost their jobs after staging a walkout to protest the plant’s prayer policy. Cargill Inc. said it fired the workers after the employees left their posts over a disagreement about when workers were allowed to pray while on the job.
NPR interviews Somali sisters who were part of the walkout — Nurto and Sadiyo Abdi. “Four times we pray in our homes,” says Nurto Abdi. “Only one time [per shift] we pray in Cargill. And they say we don’t have time to go to prayer time.”
The Muslim workers were reportedly asking for a five-minute break to pray, but requested specific times, saying that the prayer schedule during the plant’s second shift could change depending upon the season, and required some consideration in the plant’s operations.
Mike Martin, a Cargill spokesman, counters, “There are times, specific times, when because of staffing levels an individual request for prayer may not be granted at a specific time on a specific day.”