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This column gives a voice to those engaged in battle and building solidarity today — including miners fighting attacks on retirees’ pensions and healthcare, workers locked out by Honeywell and construction workers demanding safe conditions. I invite those involved in workers’ battles to contact me at 306 W. 37th St., 13th Floor, New York, NY 10018; or (212) 244-4899; or firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll work together to ensure your story is told.
DENVER — In a victory for the labor movement and a blow against anti-Muslim attacks, the Colorado Department of Labor ruled that more than 100 workers — fired over eight months ago from the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Ft. Morgan for taking Muslim prayer breaks — must receive unemployment benefits. “No person should be expected to choose between fidelity to their religion and their job,” the labor department stated.
The majority of the fired meatpackers are from Somalia. For nearly a decade Cargill had allowed workers who are Muslim to relieve each other to pray during work. In a sudden change of policy last Dec. 15, management told second shift workers they would no longer be allowed to do so. Leaders of the workers tried to get the bosses to back off, but they refused.
Over 150 workers on that shift were absent Dec. 21 to protest the attack. Cargill fired them two days later.
When the workers filed for unemployment Cargill challenged their claims. After losing nearly 20 appeals, the company withdrew the remaining challenges in May. Lawyers for the workers announced the Department of Labor ruling in early August after the deadline for appeals expired.
An Aug. 8 statement by attorneys for the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the law firm that represented many of the workers, welcomed the victory. “Cargill’s decision to suddenly forbid Muslim employees from praying at work,” it said, “reveals a company embracing odious and obvious discrimination.”
RICHMOND, Va. — Over 2,000 workers from all over the U.S. marched here Aug. 13 demanding a $15 an hour minimum wage. The demonstration capped a two-day Fight for $15 convention.
Sandra Rubio, a McDonald’s worker from Houston, said she makes $8.25 per hour after working there 25 years.
Marchers included child care, laundry, airport, McDonald’s and other fast-food workers, adjunct professors and home health aides. Many carried signs linking the fight for $15 to the fight against police brutality.
“I was surprised to meet professors here who told me they are making less than $15 an hour,” said Ben, an AT&T worker from Atlanta. He said the Communications Workers of America is trying to organize wireless phone store workers in Atlanta.
Protesters marched to the monument of Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the pro-slavery forces in the U.S. Civil War, for a rally. “Labor without livable wages is nothing but a pseudo form of slavery,” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, told the crowd.