A civil-rights group holds little hope that a week-old dispute between Muslim workers and their bosses at a Greeley slaughterhouse will end quickly, based on the company’s recent response in a similar standoff in Nebraska.
A mediation session between Brazilian-owned JBS Swift & Co. and the Council on American-Islamic Relations to discuss issues involving Muslim employees at its Grand Island, Neb., plant ended Wednesday without progress, CAIR officials said.
“They were completely uncooperative,” said Christina Abraham, director of civil rights at CAIR’s office in Chicago, which is handling both Swift disputes.
“Though we’re hopeful, the issue in Greeley may follow the same route and it could take years,” she said.
There was no date to resume the mediation.
It was the first hearing on 20 complaints that CAIR filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over problems Muslim workers say they had with Swift over prayer breaks at the plant last year.
Each complaint is offered mediation before the EEOC investigates, and Wednesday’s was the only session Swift agreed to attend so far, Abraham said.
The case revolved around one of several employees fired for walking off the job in July 2007 over the prayer dispute. CAIR said Swift officials denied firing the worker, Hassan Duwane, and insisted he had quit.
Swift officials have offered no public comment on the Grand Island dispute.
The complaints hinge on incidents where Muslim employees, most of them Somalis, said their religious needs to break for daily prayers were not accommodated. Islam requires practitioners to pray five times daily.