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Union Trades Labor Day For Muslim Holiday at Tyson Factory

Union workers at a Tennessee Tyson Food poultry factory will not get paid to barbecue chicken this Labor Day. A new five-year contract makes a paid holiday substitution, trading Labor Day for the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr. Instead of marking the end of summer, the employees will mark the end of Ramadan.

The Tennessee plant has 700 Muslim workers, out of 1,200 total. Tyson says the switch has nothing to do with religion, but is instead a contractual agreement (which only applies to union members) reached because the majority of the workers asked for it. Union leaders and supportive employees think it makes sense to accommodate the Muslim workers, too.

Other workers lament the loss of an "American holiday," and it appears that they are not alone. Some in the community are calling for a boycott of all Tyson products, arguing that immigrants need to adapt to the American way of life.

Should Tyson keep Labor Day no matter what, give employees an option to choose between the two holidays, or simply meet the contractual desires of the majority of workers, who are ready to give up Labor Day?


Join The Conversation
zeze zeze 9 years
Opps..I though Eid and Labor day were on the same day and the issue is over what to call it. ...either way, this should not be such an issue, since they are the majority of the plant it would probably be in the best interest of the plant to give that day off and cut it from the alotted vacation days (offer 13 instead of 14) because if they let people choose that would be a day lost anyways since 700 people won't show up but they would still have to pay the rest of the workers when work can't get done with so many people missing. This is how schools with many Muslim students handle it, they know most of the school (or a big chunk) won't show up on certain holidays, so they give an off and take it from the "snow day" pile because there is no point in having teachers come in and a few students when the lesson needs to be repeated the next day for those who had a holiday.
stiletta stiletta 9 years
I think that's pretty awful. Although I am not a huge fan of unions, I do recognize that many fought and died so that our standards were elevated above what one could consider indentured servitude. To me, this is like taking away Memorial Day, regardless of what it's being changed for, it's a part of American history that should be honored.
True-Song True-Song 9 years
Thanks for agreeing with me! But I don't think if half your workforce is Muslim you should get Muslim holidays off. Federal holidays for everyone, and if you need time off to observe personal, religious holidays, use vacation.
jenintx jenintx 9 years
I agree with togleson. I think if more than half the work force is Muslim, they should be allowed to have BOTH days off. They shouldn't have to pick and choose, when one is a federal holiday and one a religious holiday. Just as we Christians (well, and everyone else) are allowed Christmas Day off. And Ramadan is a month long (during which time Muslims fast during the daytime, among other practices), suzi.
True-Song True-Song 9 years
I just don't think having workers get to choose is feasible. I'd like to have Martin Luther King Day off instead of Labor Day, but maybe my coworker is super into Arbor Day. I think you should get all Federal Holidays no matter what, and anything else use vacation.
suziryder suziryder 9 years
I can understand why people who celebrate Ramadan would want to get the day off, and it's great that the company is accomodating them. But I don't think they should force everyone to take that day off - the people who want to celebrate Labor Day would be forced to miss all those barbeques / family get-togethers / last vacations of the summer. I think the employees should have the right to choose, but it's probably not feasible because the plant probably can't function with only half the work force.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Well if I where the plant chief administrator I would have given them the extra day off if everyone agreed to work an extra one hour a day for eight days to make up the time lost. I don't know why they chose such a divisive remedy to the situation.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
It must be Speedy Gonzales
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Hmm, my mouse is a little excited this morning.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
First off I'm a bit confused are the eliminating Labor Day all together as a day off or are they simply not getting a paid holiday yet still getting the day off?
javsmav javsmav 9 years
the difference between a floating holiday and a vacation day is the same difference between a "regular" holiday and a vacation day. you get the day off without having to use your vacation time. the negative (for the employee) difference is that if you don't use your floating holidays at the end of the year, it doesn't carry over and if you leave the company before it's over, then you don't get your floating holiday paid out. It's a compromise I guess--the company is giving the employee more time off but without the advantages that vacation days have.
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
I wonder how logical it is to assume that you could let people choose which day to take off in this type of setting. I don't have much experience with factories, but it would seem like it would be hard to get work done if only 500 of your 1200 employees showed up to work. I think that's likely the reason they had to pick one day. Anyway, bummer for those few people who don't get Labor Day. But it makes sense since they're in the minority.
bengalspice bengalspice 9 years
Hey ... there are prime shopping days for Eid too. My roommate is trying to do her shopping now so she won't be mauled the closer we get to Eid.
stephley stephley 9 years
See, real Americans - the two of us! Tyson's doesn't really have Speedy Gonzales on the enchilada boxes, does it?
True-Song True-Song 9 years
>some floating holidays so you can take off on good friday, yom kippur, Eid al-Fitr, columbus day, your birthday, etc I never really understood the difference between floating holidays and vacation days. But either way, you still have the option to take off Labor Day using regular vacation if it's important to you.
liliblu liliblu 9 years
Stephley that really made me smile. Prime shopping hours are from opening to 11:30am. There are fewer people in the stores, so you can go crazy.
javsmav javsmav 9 years
because the "American way of life" is intolerant? It makes sense to me from a union perspective. I don't think I've ever celebrated labor day, but it sounds like it's just another bbq holiday? we already have memorial day & 4th of july for that, why not trade in labor day to give the majority of workers a day off that they would appreciate more. although I think my office has the best idea. we get certain core holidays and then some floating holidays so you can take off on good friday, yom kippur, Eid al-Fitr, columbus day, your birthday, etc depending on your religious (or non-religious) practices.
stephley stephley 9 years
"Eid al-Fitr -- which falls on Oct. 1 this year" It's not compatible with the American way of life because if you're at work on Labor Day you might miss the early-bird sales. Go shopping after work and the best stuff is gone.
True-Song True-Song 9 years
I would love for someone to explain to me how celebrating a Muslim holiday is not compatible with " the American way of life."
jenintx jenintx 9 years
I think if they allow Christmas as a holiday without forfeiting Labor Day or Jewish holidays without forfeiting Labor Day, they should allow the Muslim holiday without forfeiting Labor Day. I do realize that people who aren't Christian celebrate Christmas, but it is just as much a religious holiday as Eid al-Fitr. Maybe if the Muslims commercialized their holiday(s) as much as America has commercialized so many of the Christian holidays, it wouldn't be an issue.
zeze zeze 9 years
Why can't they leave the religion part out? Call it a day off, call it Labor Day, call it anything besides a religion specific name...ala "winter break" for Christmas and Spring Break for Easter? I think it is good that Muslims celebrating Eid El-Iftr get the day off (it is the equivalent of Christmas as far as important holidays go) but we really should back off the religious labels. BTW: This will only be a problem this year since Eid changes every year, so it won't be on labor day next year.
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