Somali workers walk out of Cargill plant

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FORT MORGAN, Colo. – Saying that they were not allowed to take breaks to pray, about 200 Muslim employees walked out of work Monday at the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Fort Morgan, Colo., claiming religious discrimination.

Many of the plant’s Somali employees said they have not been allowed to take five-minute breaks for prayer since last Friday, which their faith requires, according to a report in the Fort Morgan Times. They threatened to quit if the rules don’t change.

“Prayer is our first priority,” Hamza Hussein, a plant employee for nearly two years, told the Fort Morgan Times. “We are Muslim. We’re not going to work for them if we can't pray.”

Hussein said the plant’s Somali employees were told Friday that they would no longer be allowed to take breaks to pray. But Mike Martin, director of communications for Cargill, told the newspaper that the company’s policy for allowing employees’ religious practices has not changed. Martin said because the employees work on an assembly line, they are only allowed to leave one or two at a time to avoid slowing production.

Martin said most of the plant’s 2,100 employees showed up for work on Monday, but the plant’s second shift, on which many of the Somali employees work, was short. The plant continued operation, however.

According to the report, managers at the plant are communicating with the employees who complained in hopes of reaching an agreement.

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