Union: Muslim Workers Reach Deal for Prayer Break

A meatpacking plant has agreed to accommodate Muslim workers' request for prayer time during Ramadan, union officials said Wednesday.

Earlier this week 300 Muslim JBS Swift & Co. workers, most of Somali background, walked off the job in protest of the prayer dispute. No one was fired after the protest.

Dan Hoppes, president of the local United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said management at the plant has agreed to temporarily change the timing of the second-shift lunch break to accommodate workers wanting time to pray during the Muslim observance of Ramadan.

Workers previously took the 30-minute break in shifts. The change will force the entire line to break at once. The arrangement will be in effect the next nine working days, which will cover the remainder of Ramadan, Hoppes said.

A phone message left with company officials was not immediately returned Wednesday.

The plant employs about 2,500 people, not including management, Hoppes said. He estimates about 500 of the plant's workforce is Muslim.

More than 100 workers at a Greeley, Colorado, Swift plant were fired last week because the company said they walked away from work before their shifts ended. The workers blamed the company's refusal to allow their breaks to coincide with sunset so they could pray.