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
  • Embezzler from Joplin car dealerships sent to prison

    A federal judge has sentenced Kathryn M. Stayton to 13 months in prison for embezzling more than $100,000 from Frank Fletcher Ford and Credit Cars of Joplin. U.S. District Judge Greg Kays assessed the 36-year-old Joplin woman the prison term at a sentencing hearing this week in federal court in Springfield. The judge also ordered the former controller at both car dealerships to pay restitution totaling $121,249. 51.

    April 18, 2014

  • Screening of MSSU presidential applicants to wrap by end of April

    The Board of Governors at Missouri Southern State University could be in a position to name a president as early as the end of June, according to a timeline presented Friday by the co-chair of the presidential search committee.

    April 18, 2014

  • Teams from Carl Junction, Diamond advance in Destination Imagination

    Student teams from Carl Junction and Diamond will be traveling to Destination Imagination finals May 20-24 in Knoxville, Tenn., after being top finishers in competition this month at Missouri Southern State University.

    April 18, 2014

  • Neosho Dogwood Tour reset, after false start

    The 53rd annual Neosho Dogwood Tour will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, April 27. The event, presented by the Neosho Rotary Club and the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce, originally was scheduled for Sunday, April 13.

    April 18, 2014

  • Joplin Catholic schools to hold annual spring auction

    The Joplin Area Catholic Schools spring auction will be staged Saturday at the Jack Lawton Webb Convention Center, 5300 S. Range Line Road in Joplin.

    April 19, 2014

  • Wally Kennedy: Another pizza choice and ice cream on the way

    A new pizza restaurant is coming to the northwest corner of Stone’s Corner in the Village of Airport Drive. Piez is opening this week in a storefront that formerly housed Quincy Magoo’s, 6039 N. Main Street Road, which has been closed for more than two years.

    April 19, 2014

  • r041814capbus4.jpg Funding shortfall could hinder public transportation in Southeast Kansas

    For the past two years, Pittsburg State University sophomore Travis Cook has been using public transportation to get to and from his classes. He began using the bus his freshman year, when he didn’t have a vehicle to drive even to the grocery store — which is said to be the case for many who use the service.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bruner denied change of venue for murder trial

    Circuit Judge Gayle Crane has denied a change of venue for a defendant charged with fatally shooting an assistant football coach at Missouri Southern State University. The attorney for Jeffrey Bruner claimed pretrial publicity as the reason for seeking a change of venue in Jasper County Circuit Court.

    April 18, 2014

  • Russell family sues city, Joplin police

    Family members of a teenage girl whose suicide a year ago brought them into conflict with police officers and emergency medical technicians are suing the city and the Joplin Police Department. Kevin and Julissa Russell and their son, Brant Russell, are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court. The action filed on the Russells’ behalf by Kansas City attorney Andrew Protzman names the city, the Police Department and Officers Austin Wolf and Tyler Christensen as defendants.

    April 18, 2014

  • Kansas Regents stick with social media policy

    After directing a committee to study a controversial social media policy and make recommended changes, the Kansas Board of Regents appears to not be changing the policy at all. It’s left some in academia baffled by why it appointed the work group in the first place.

    April 18, 2014

Must Read


A Missouri Senate committee has endorsed a 1-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects. The proposed constitutional amendment passed the House earlier this month. If passed by the full Senate, the measure would head to the November ballot for voter approval. Would you vote in favor of it?

     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter