Monday, November 17, 2008

Prayer, food and immigration lead to disputes

Ten days before Thanksgiving, it's surprising that all across the country, ongoing arguments center on prayer, food and immigration.

In Iowa, Latinos and Orthodox Jews have clashed over Kosher meat. Latinos and Somalis are skirmishing in Tennessee. Latinos, Somalis, and Sudanese are wrangling in Nebraska. All the disputes concern work in slaughterhouses.

The arguments are specifically about prayer breaks during Ramadan, paid holidays, cultural clashes and, generally, lack of assimilation into the Thanksgiving-celebrating American melting pot.

In August, Tyson Foods made Eid al-Fitr instead of Labor Day a paid holiday for Somali workers at a Tennessee plant. There was such a backlash from other workers, Tyson reversed the decision.

A JBS Swift Nebraska plant offered striking Somali workers an earlier dinner break so they could pray at sunset. Hispanics, Sudanese and whites demonstrated against the concession, charging favoritism.

Agriprocessors in Iowa, the nation's biggest kosher slaughterhouse, lost half of its work force to an immigration raid in May.

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