by Gladys Gutierrez
Greater MN Worker
This past 2016 year, we at The Greater Minnesota Worker Center have had the privilege to work with and fight alongside workers of the poultry industry. We take the lives of low wage and minority workers seriously, and dedicate our time serving them and making sure that they receive the quality of life they deserve. We hosted a rally on Workers Memorial Day, led safety trainings, and, possibly most relevant to the holiday of Hanukkah we are currently in the middle of, fought against religious discrimination in the workplace.
On Workers’ Memorial Day, April 28th, we gathered poultry workers, community members, and leaders to remember and pay our respects to those whose lives were lost while on the job. We also gathered the community to stand up against evident occupational and safety violations within the poultry industry in Minnesota; specifically, we rallied outside of Gold’n Plump’s (GnP) local corporate office. The concerns of GnP workers consisted of unfair firing practices, insufficient bathroom breaks, extremely fast line speeds, and religious discrimination.
Too many times, Muslim workers have faced religious discrimination within the poultry industry, specifically at GnP. Our Muslim brothers and sisters have been forced to substitute their lunch and bathroom breaks for prayer breaks if the times happen to coincide. They have not been given concessions for fasting and breaking the fast during Ramada. Even though an agreement was reached in 2008 between GnP and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that required GnP to make a reasonable accommodation for prayer during one’s shift, GnP does not follow this agreement. The action outside GnP on Workers’ Memorial Day allowed us to empower the Muslim poultry workers in our base and show greater Minnesota that we will not remain silent about labor injustice or religious discrimination.
The fight against GnP in St. Cloud is ongoing. GnP still does not comply with the 2008 agreement, and the Muslim workers of GnP have yet to secure concessions for appropriate accommodations for breaking their fast during Ramadan. We hope that during the Hanukkah Festival and holiday season, ordinary Americans will reflect on the issues that affect poultry workers and stand in solidarity with workers struggling for change, yearning to breathe free.