It’s too bad that the least honest headline came from a local media outlet: “Muslim workers fired over prayer dispute in Colorado.” This bit of misdirection from Denver’s 9News (perhaps not surprisingly an NBC affiliate) neglects to mention that the roughly 180 Somali workers fired from their jobs at a Cargill meat-packing plant in Fort Morgan, Colorado, had knowingly violated their employment contracts by walking off the job.
Let’s back up a few days: Minnesota-based Cargill, one of the largest agricultural commodity firms on the planet, employs roughly 2,000 people at its huge beef-processing plant in Fort Morgan, a town of about 11,500 people eighty miles northeast of Denver. About 400 of these workers are from Somalia and are, I presume, Muslim.
After all, nearly 100% of the country’s population is Muslim. Its national constitution says that “Islam is the religion of the State,” that “No religion other than Islam can be propagated in the country,” and that “No law can be enacted that is not compliant with…Shari’ah.” The Somali government recently banned Christmas celebrations saying that they could “damage the faith of the Muslim community” and provoke attacks by Islamic terrorists. So which is it: are Somali Muslims fragile snowflakes or murderous barbarians? Or, in a perfect recipe for a failed state, both? And you wonder why so many Somali immigrants, or their American-born children, have been recruited by al-Shabab and now ISIS. But I digress…
According to Cargill, the plant has two “reflection rooms” in which workers are allowed to take brief breaks to pray as long as only a few of them go at any given time so that plant operations are not disrupted. On Friday, December 18, eleven workers violated instructions from a supervisor and went to pray at the same time.
Ten of them resigned that day. The following Monday, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports, “160 Somali workers didn’t show up for work and 17 more clocked in but then walked off the job.” (Why would a Minnesota paper be covering this story? Not only because Cargill is based there but also because it is estimated that nearly one third of all Somali immigrants in the United States live in that state.)
After “multiple attempts” to discuss the issue with representatives of the employees who were disrupting the functioning of Morgan County’s largest employer, Cargill followed company policy regarding workers who do not come to work or call in to explain an absence for three consecutive days — by firing all 177 of them.
So, pace 9News, the workers were not fired “over” a prayer dispute but “after” a prayer dispute; they were fired for not doing their jobs. Since the Cargill plant runs in shifts, a mass walk-out of these Somali Muslim workers from a single shift represented (by my estimate) almost 20 percent of the meat-cutting capacity of the plant at that time. Who could run a business that way?
These events are not particularly surprising: A Denver Post article from August 2011 described this very plant “struggling to accommodate (its) Muslim workforce,” noting that even though it had avoided major discord, “an undercurrent of problems exists, according to current and former workers and Somali translators.” This despite that, according to a commenter on the 9News web page who appears to be an employee at the plant, “Accommodations were made at this plant for religious individuals. It’s been in the union contract for years.”
Cargill policy bars fired employees from applying to be rehired within six months of losing their jobs. CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), a perennial apologist for Muslims behaving badly, is trying to get Cargill to reconsider in this case. CAIR is representing the majority of the fired workers in efforts to get Cargill “to implement a workable policy that meets the needs of all parties.” But what if there is no middle ground, such as if much of your workforce wants to walk off the plant floor at the same time, multiple times a day?
Lawsuits filed by Muslims against their employers, or by the government on behalf of Muslim employees, are on the rise. In July, a federal judge ruled that an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) lawsuit against another meatpacker in Colorado (Swift’s plant in Greeley) could go forward despite Swift’s argument that accommodating simultaneous prayer (or other religion-based reason not to work) by a large percentage of their employees posed an undue burden on the operation of the business — an argument which Swift won in a similar case in Nebraska in 2013.
While comments to various news stories about the current Cargill situation offer precious little support (and some overt racism and bigotry) to those who walked off the job, you can be sure that EEOC crusaders will look to bring the force of government down on the company. These cloistered bureaucrats know little and care less that the purpose of business is business and that modest accommodation to a religious employee’s beliefs should not extend to having to change your business practices.
In short, if your prayers are more important than this job — and if you can get another job somewhere else that will allow you to prioritize Allah over the boss during work hours — please do everyone a favor and go take that other job. Until then, do what you’re paid to do according to the terms under which you agreed to your employment.
The issue is bigger than Fort Morgan: As we look at Paris or Amsterdam or Rotherham or even Minneapolis, Americans — even the politically correct sort — must realize two things: Islam is an aggressively expansionist ideology that is as much political doctrine as religion. And while most individual Muslims are no doubt sincere in their religious convictions, enabling their ability to change Western culture and law to comply with Islamic practice furthers the religion’s aim to overtake — and subjugate — all others.
At this critical juncture in a real battle for Western Civilization (which is to say for modernity itself), it is imperative that companies and public institutions not be required to accede to Muslims’ demands that, for example, their multiple daily prayers be the basis for the operation of non-Muslim businesses (much less of public schools, such as the Morgan County high school which “set aside auditorium balcony space, separated by gender” — can you imagine if Christians or Jews demanded such a thing?).
Beyond that, politicians and bureaucrats must be told by the next president — something which will only happen if we elect a Republican — that the First Amendment prohibition against state establishment of religion does not mean government has the power to require citizens and corporations to change their daily existences in order to accommodate religious demands.
This is not to say that those in the public or private sphere can actually discriminate — which Cargill manifestly does not — or that they could not meet the Muslims’ requests voluntarily, but the voluntary nature of any such accommodation should be more important than (not just equally important to) the wishes of Muslim workers. A thought experiment: how many Christian workers have successfully demanded Sunday mornings off to go to church?
In short, a lack of accommodation when such accommodation would require an even slightly burdensome change in business operations must not be considered by courts or bureaucrats to be a form of discrimination.
We are a nation of immigrants who come from the widest possible range of religions, cultures, and languages. It is a significant part of what makes America exceptional. Maintaining that exceptionalism means forcefully telling Muslims everywhere, not least the Islamist interlopers known as CAIR, that our Constitution and Somalia’s constitution are not interchangeable, and that the inevitable outcome of the injection of Islam into every aspect of daily life is, well, Somalia — which those at the center of this story presumably left for a reason.
Perhaps the imagery is just too perfect, but it’s time to make a stand at Fort Morgan.