The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

October 25, 2011

Somali workers back on job at Tyson plant

Officials: Language barrier created misunderstanding

NOEL, Mo. — A group of about 130 Somali workers were back on the job Tuesday  at the Tyson Foods chicken plant in Noel after discussions ironed out what company management says was a misunderstanding likely created by a language barrier.

The workers had left the plant Friday in what was said to be a perceived dispute with plant managers regarding prayer time for the workers, who are Muslims.

Abdinasir Ahmed, one of the workers, said the walkout took place after a group of 23 Muslim workers were told they would not be allowed time to pray. He said a plant official also was disrespectful of their religion, and that other workers joined the walkout when they heard what had happened.

In a statement released Tuesday, Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman said the company official said she was not disrespectful. “The walkout was the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding we believe was rooted in language differences.”

The Muslim faith is centered on The Five Pillars of Islam, or five basic acts that exist as a framework for worship. The second pillar, known as Salat, requires the faithful to pray at five specific times throughout the day: just before dawn, mid-day, afternoon, at sunset and in the evening. For devout Muslims, adherence to the Salat is obligatory.

Eric Hudson, an employee at Noel’s African grocery store, said he lived and worked among the Somali community for years in Colorado, and now in Missouri.

“Religion is the most important thing in these people’s lives,” he said.

Hudson said many Somali refugees are recent arrivals to the U.S., but many more have lived in the country since the early 1990s when civil war began in their country. The U.S. State Department currently regards Somalia as a failed state.

He said most of the Somalis he has talked to say they like their jobs and feel that Tyson is a good employer. He said the recent tensions have only existed for about a month.

Ahmed said he has worked at the plant for three years, and has been allowed prayer time until a new management team recently took over. Another 24-year-old worker, Bazi Nur, also said that the environment at the plant had changed when the new management team arrived.

In another statement this week, Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said: “Our Noel management team includes a few new people who joined the operation a couple of months ago. However, the plant’s efforts to provide religious accommodation have not changed.”

In a telephone interview, Mickelson said none of the Muslim workers who walked out Friday were fired, and that Tyson brought a Somali interpreter from another plant to address any language barrier that may arise between management and the workers.

“We are a company that strives to be faith friendly, and, as required by federal law, have already been providing religious accommodation to workers at the Noel plant,” he said. “However, in this case, a group of workers involved asked that they all be allowed to take a prayer break at the same time.”

Mickelson says that allowing 130 workers to pray at the same time would put an undue hardship on the company’s operation.

Ahmed and Nur dispute the contention that the Muslim employees requested simultaneous prayer time.

“We submitted a request that each worker get time to pray one at a time,” Nur said.

Ahmed said discussions between company officials and local workers lasted until 8 p.m. Monday. He said workers returned to the plant Tuesday under a temporary agreement that allows for individual prayer breaks.

Nur said the Muslim workers in Noel are not asking for special treatment, just the accommodation required by law.

“We’re not here asking for what is not our rights,” he said.

Text Only
Local News
  • r072814dogbike.jpg Cross-country trip promotes animal adoption

    Where’s Bixby? Not the town in Oklahoma, but the dog on the back of a bicycle ridden by Mike Minnick. On Monday, the two were in Joplin, one stop on a cross-country bike trip to promote the adoption of dogs and cats from local shelters.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Seneca man draws concurrent term in sexual abuse case

    A 39-year-old man who sexually abused a girl over a four-year period in both Joplin and Seneca received a 15-year sentence Monday in Newton County that will run concurrently with a term he received earlier this year in Jasper County.

    July 28, 2014

  • Defendant who pulled knife on ER doctor sent for treatment

    A man accused of pulling a knife on a Freeman Hospital West emergency room doctor pleaded guilty to a reduced charge Monday and was sentenced to the state prison system’s Institutional Treatment Center.

    July 28, 2014

  • Judge lifts seal on records in Parsons quadruple slaying

    A judge has rescinded his order sealing court records in the case of David Bennett Jr., who is accused of killing a Parsons woman and her three children.

    July 28, 2014

  • Wal-Mart to build second local Neighborhood Market

    A second Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market store is planned for Joplin. The company has filed an application with the city to rezone nearly six acres of land on the west side of town in the tornado zone to build a new Neighborhood Market and gas station.

    July 28, 2014

  • r072814mailcar.jpg VIDEO: Train mail car trailered on Joplin's Main Street to Redings Mill

    With a police escort leading the way Monday, postal car No. 34 breezed through downtown Joplin en route to its new home in Redings Mill, where it was greeted by a welcome party of local residents and railroad enthusiasts.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

  • Anti-landfill group seeks grand jury probe

    As more than 200 people filed into Riverton High School on Sunday to attend an anti-landfill group meeting, many stopped to sign a petition asking the Cherokee County District Court to summon a grand jury to investigate how land was acquired by the city of Galena for a proposed landfill.

    July 27, 2014

  • 072814_jd anderson.jpg VIDEO: Noel strongman advances on talent show

    The past week has been busier than normal for Noel resident J.D. Anderson. Members of the production crew for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” told him they have shot more footage of him than of other contestants for the next episode. “They said I have the busiest schedule of anyone this week,” Anderson told the Globe in a phone interview Friday. “There’s so many fun things you can do with B-roll as a strongman.”

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • AndraBryanStefanoni.jpg Andra Bryan Stefanoni: ‘Annie’ production is a family thing

    There’s a twist to this week’s production of “Annie” at Memorial Auditorium. The show, a beloved classic tale of an orphan girl in search of a family, is full of real-life family members.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072514 Band Box.jpg Jo Ellis: Carthage icon continues to play in local restaurant

    Chicago Coin’s Band-Box, also known as “Strike Up the Band,” has been a Carthage icon since the mid- to late 1950s. Any customer who frequented Red’s Diner, or Ray’s Cafe, and now the Pancake Hut is familiar with the pulsating rhythms and movements of this mechanical device.

    July 27, 2014 2 Photos

Must Read


Given that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that electronic devices and communications are protected from searches and seizure without a warrant, do you think Missouri needs Amendment 9 added to its constitution?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter