Muslims to March on Amazon Over Prayer Breaks

APRIL 21, 2017
PJ Media

Amazon may have issued a “declaration of support” in January for a lawsuit against President Trump’s order to put a temporary halt to immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, but that hasn’t stopped outraged Muslims from planning a May 1 demonstration at the front door of the company’s headquarters in Seattle.

The Service Employees International Union and three Muslim guards who work for Security Industry Specialists, the security contractor Amazon uses to guard its facility, accuse SIS, and by implication Amazon, of refusing to allow the guards space to pray five times daily, even though members of other religions are granted the privilege of using prayer rooms.

Essag Hassan, a former SIS guard at Amazon, said he was let go because of his request to be allowed to pray on his work break.

“I was fired and not given a reason why,” Hassan said. “I’m speaking out for all Muslim security workers and for workers of any religion. When you ask for a space to pray on your work break, that request should be treated with respect.”

The SEIU told PJM “a strongly worded letter” from the “Seattle faith community” would be delivered to Amazon during the rally planned outside the company’s headquarters.

“Unlike other companies in locations with large Muslim populations, Amazon has not supported Muslim service workers requesting space to pray during their law-mandated work breaks,” the SEIU email to PJM said.

“Despite granting the high-earning tech workers conference rooms to pray in, there appears to be a double standard for the contracted security officers who protect the tech giant,” the SEIU email concluded.

The May 1 rally won’t be the first time SEIU and former SIS guards who are Muslim have knocked at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ front door.

The South Seattle Emerald reported in February “hundreds of devout Muslims, clergy, labor unionists” and even some Amazon workers took part in a prayer rally to demonstrate against SIS policy regarding prayer rooms.

“There’s been issues regarding religious prayers, [with some not being] given a space to practice,” Ismahan Ismail, a security specialist at Amazon, told the South Seattle Emerald. “When I did speak up, I was actually retaliated against. I had someone step on my prayer items.”

Muslim employee: Disney banned her head scarf

August 18, 2010

ANAHEIM, Calif. — A Muslim woman who works as a hostess at a Disneyland restaurant alleged Wednesday the theme park would not allow her to appear in front of customers while wearing her head scarf.

Imane Boudlal, 26, appeared outside the resort's Grand Californian Hotel after filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

She said when she wore the hijab to work Sunday, her supervisors told her to remove it, work where customers couldn't see her, or go home.

Boudlal, who wore the scarf in observance of Ramadan, chose to go home but reported to work for the next two days and was told the same thing.

"Miss Boudlal has effectively understood that they're not interested in accommodating her request either in timing or good faith," said Ameena Qazi, an attorney from the Council on American-Islamic Relations who is consulting with Boudlal.

Disneyland spokeswoman Suzi Brown said Disney has a policy not to discriminate. The resort offered Boudlal a chance to work with the head covering away from customers while Disneyland tries to find a compromise that would allow Boudlal to cover her head in a way that fits with her hostess uniform, Brown said.

"Typically, somebody in an on-stage position like hers wouldn't wear something like that, that's not part of the costume," Brown said. "We were trying to accommodate her with a backstage position that would allow her to work. We gave her a couple of different options and she chose not to take those and to go home."

Boudlal, who is a native of Morocco, has worked at the Storyteller restaurant at the hotel for 2 1/2 years but only realized she could wear her hijab to work after studying for her U.S. citizenship exam in June, Qazi said.

She asked her supervisors if she could wear the scarf and was told they would consult with the corporate office, Qazi said. Boudlal didn't hear anything for two months and was then told she could wear a head scarf, but it had to be designed by Disneyland's costume department to comply with the Disney look, Qazi said.

She was fitted for a Disney-supplied head scarf but was not given a date when the garment would be finished and was told she couldn't wear her own hijab in the interim.

Boudlal wore her own hijab to work for the first time Sunday.

"After these two months and this complicated process, she decided to come forward," Qazi said. "She really wanted to be able to wear it on Ramadan."

Boudlal has the support of her union, which has been in a bitter fight for months with Disneyland over an expired contract for hotel workers. Brown accused the union of distorting the facts in Boudlal's case to distract from the key issues in the contract fight.

Leigh Shelton, a spokeswoman for the union, said Boudlal's coming forward now had nothing to do with the negotiations.

"There's absolutely no correlation," said Shelton, who's with Unite Here Local 11.


Muslim Workers Quit, Others Apparently Fired at Swift

Sep 19, 2008

It's not ounce of prevention, but more like a pound. That's what Police Chief Steve Lamken said.

He was hoping the sight of dozens of patrol cars will do a ton of good after a week of protests at Swift & Co.

"We're there to preserve the peace and make sure everybody's safe," he said.

Safety was very much in doubt Thursday night when police got a call describing a possible riot.

Lamken said, "A group of officers assembled and responded. When we got there we found out there had been a disturbance. However no one reported a criminal offense. No one reported being injured or anything like that."

In the words of union president Dan Hoppes, Somali workers were "loud and obnoxious" when they found out they wouldn't be allowed to pray, as they had been told earlier in the week.

Muslim workers say as many as 150 may have been fired.

Fitah Issa, a spokesman for Somali workers said, "Swift managers gave them papers to get fired and most were fired, so go back home."

While reports of riots were likely overstated, police weren't taking chances when race and religion are involved. 

Lamken said, "Our role is to, right now, while these issues are going on, these conflicts are going on, it be resolved without people resorting to violence or people being hurt."

Somali leaders say if they have to, they'll take the fight to court. 

Issa said, "We stand for our religion and will fight for it."

The union said as many as 70 Muslim workers quit or were fired Thursday night. 

Somali leaders said the total number could be 120 or more, as people were handed their walking papers Friday.

Swift says it was "working to resolve the issues," but in a statement, said nothing about consequences for any of the workers who walked out this week.

Reporter's Notes by Steve White:
Police officers and Nebraska State Troopers were stationed around the plant Friday. They said things were fairly quiet during the afternoon shift change.

Union leaders said they were doing their best to get employees back to work.

Muslim workers said the disturbance took place when they were not allowed to pray at sundown, as they do during the observance of Ramadan.