Company confirms firings of meatpackers


JBS Swift & Co. meat packing plant workers protest Thursday morning, Sept.18, 2008, as day shift workers congregate outside the plant after walking off the job. The workers are dissatisfied with a compromise reached Tuesday night between striking Somalian workers and Swift. Striking worker Veronica Yebra, center, said she and others allegedly threatened with dismissal by JBS Swift & Co. officials. The original protest began because Muslim workers said they weren’t allowed enough time to pray.

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. – Nearly 90 Muslims are no longer working at the JBS Swift & Co. meatpacking plant here.

Dan Hoppes, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local No. 22, said Friday that about 50 to 80 Muslims had quit the night before. He said the matter stemmed from the recent debate over break time for prayer during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

JBS Swift confirmed 86 firings to the Associated Press late Friday, saying the employees were terminated earlier in the day for repeatedly leaving work without authorization.

Police said there had been a loud disagreement Thursday night in the plant cafeteria.

“There were some Muslim people who wanted to get the rest of the people to back them (by) moving their (dinner) break to an earlier time,” Hoppes said, “and when that did not happen, the rest of the people went back to work, and those people protesting got loud and boisterous. It wasn’t a physical altercation at all.”

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