Muslim holiday at US factory provokes Islamophobic backlash

RWDSU logoThe union that represents workers at a Tyson Foods poultry plant in Tennessee has negotiated a contract that substitutes a Muslim holiday for Labor Day as one of the eight paid holidays at the plant.

The provision, which was proposed by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, has delighted the plant’s Somali workers, who account for hundreds of its 1,200 employees. But it has infuriated many outsiders, leading some to denounce Tyson and the union alike.

“You are a union that is proud of achieving a Muslim holiday and prayer room?” one person wrote the union. “A union in the U.S.A., a country based on Christianity. You call yourselves Americans? Have you forgotten 9/11?”

Another wrote: “You had no right to drop Labor Day. Muslim employees must integrate Labor Day into THEIR lives if they are going to live in America.”

Stung by the criticism, Stuart Appelbaum, the union’s president, said the decision was fully consistent with the spirit of Labor Day.

“We in the labor movement have always understood that unions are only strong when we work to protect the dignity of all faiths, and that includes Muslims,” said Mr. Appelbaum, who also serves as president of the Jewish Labor Committee.

“What we negotiated was the will of the workers,” said Mr. Appelbaum, who added that his was the first union to negotiate a paid day off for a Muslim holiday and that he was sure Tyson would not be the last employer to agree.

New York Times, 6 August 2008

Over at Front Page Magazine Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch warns that this represents one more step down the slippery slope towards the Islamisation of the USA: “The problem is that the accommodation of Islamic holidays and practices abets, however unwittingly, an avowedly supremacist agenda that is directed toward supplanting American laws and mores and imposing Islamic law here.”

And the inimitable Debbie Schlussel writes: “Well, folks, here it is – the beginning (or maybe the middle) of the end of America as we know it…. Since I keep kosher, I don’t eat Tyson Foods products anyway, but I call on you my readers to boycott the company. It’s absurd to replace labor day with the holiday of those bent on our destruction. Any company that does that doesn’t deserve your business.”