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Former Swift Workers Seek Help
Council on American-Islamic Relations Steps In

ABC 7, Denver news
September 18, 2008

Feature 271 A group of the more than 120 Muslim employees fired last week at the Swift plant in Greeley met with an attorney representing the Council on American-Islamic Relations Wednesday, hoping that the advocacy group can help them find a resolution.

The organization has helped with negotiations at Swift's Nebraska plant, which union leaders say may have reached a settlement that would temporarily change the timing of the second-shift lunch break to give workers time to pray during the observance of Ramadan.

"All they want is the right to pray," said Rima Kapitan, a volunteer attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

She said CAIR will offer to help with negotiations, file a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and if necessary, initiate a class action federal lawsuit.

"It's not an undue burden. We've offered numerous suggestions to the company on how to accommodate the workers and it's just simply a matter of them not being willing to work with the workers on that issue," said Kapitan.

She said other meatpacking plants have made accommodations for Muslim workers, and she said the national union's involvement could help the fired workers get their jobs back.

Meanwhile, former workers such as Abdi Abdirahman said they are struggling to make ends meet.

"We need to go back to our work, and I want to do our work. Because I want to make a living," he said. "I support nine people. But I will fight for my religion."

Swift did not return calls for comment, but last week issued a statement saying they work hard to accommodate religious practices in a reasonable, safe and fair manner.

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