Hispanics vs. Somalis: Greeley getting ready for Round 2
Posted by Ann Corcoran on June 28, 2009
Update June 30th: The Denver Post says civil rights complaints have been filed against Swift & Co. alleging Somalis have been mistreated by Hispanic supervisors. I realize I miss-titled this post. It should be Somalis vs. Hispanics!
Oh boy, I predict we are going to be seeing the second round of the battle of the Hispanic workers vs. the East African workers at the Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in Greeley, CO (maybe Grand Island, NE too) as Ramadan approaches later this summer.
Isn’t diversity wonderful, doesn’t it bring such richness to communities? (sigh) Just feel the love as multicultural workers wielding knives cut up meat side by side, or enjoy each others company in their leisure time at the local bars. (deep sigh)
Here is an article from the Greeley Tribune today so chock full of interesting stuff I’m going to write at least two posts about it. And, for new readers, the often violent protests and conflicts over Muslim prayer breaks gave us so much grist for our mill last year that we have an entire category on Greeley/Grand Island here.
From the Greeley Tribune today:
Since last September, JBS officials have met repeatedly with Muslim workers and union representatives to hash out issues. A company official said JBS has made progress and is making religious accommodations where possible.
Meanwhile, the Muslim employees say not much has changed inside the plant. They steadfastly place God before work and will be looking for a quiet place to pay sunset homage when the hot August sun sets this Ramadan.
It remains a heated conundrum of cultures, languages, and labor and safety issues with no easy answers. It’s anyone’s guess whether the religious observance will be a flashpoint of worker unrest again this summer.
My guess is that we are in for a hot one! Community organizers will be sure of that—see tomorrow’s post! June 29th: here is the first of my follow-up posts.
I have no sympathy for the meatpacking companies who got themselves into this mess by wanting to find the cheapest labor they could find! And, I laugh to see that the Progressives (radical leftwingers) can’t get the workers united against those evil Capitalist (Brazilian in this case) fat cats because the multicultural masses aren’t cooperating.
More clear is that fissures run through the growing polyethnic mix at the meatplants. Raul Garcia, a veteran of the Grand Island plant, said a few fights have broken out between Latinos and Somalis.
In Greeley, Alberto Trujillo, who came here 20 years ago from Chihuahua, Mexico, and put in a stint at the meatpacking plant, calls the East African workers “whiny.” He’s resentful that Mexican immigrants face a costly and time-consuming process to become legal workers, while the Africans — it can take a couple of years to get refugee status — arrive eligible to work.
Trujillo spoke while playing pool with a few friends at a downtown Latino bar.
“They can take their own time to pray, but you have to follow the rules,” he said. “And why give (Muslim workers) special preferences? As soon as they get here they don’t have to worry about their papers, right?”
Gerardo Hernandez Marquez, another Chihuahua native and former meatplant worker, carried that point further: “The Cubans barely get into the water and put one foot on this country and they’re good.”
A couple pool tables away, a group of refugees from Eritrea, another East African nation, complained that the plant is a difficult place for African workers because they aren’t hired into supervisor positions. Those jobs are held primarily by Latinos, they said.
One of the Eritreans, Azmera Gebregirgs, 26, said he got beat up by a couple of Latinos when he left the bar late at night a few months earlier. He only comes to bar now with a group of African friends.
Latinos greatly outnumber the Africans in the bar on this afternoon. The groups stick to themselves.
Marquez cast a wary eye toward the Eritreans and said, “As long as they don’t mess with us, we don’t mess with them.”
And here is the Progressive (radical leftwinger) schoolmarm:
“We’d hope that JBS as an employer would make the accommodations as necessary,” said Nicole Hurt, director of the Colorado Progressive Coalition’s northern Colorado office. “I feel it’s important for every culture in a workplace to be respected.”
Of course the great fun is going to be watching to see just how one does that—make all the diverse cultures happy at the same time!
You know what’s kind of cool about this story, you can’t blame any American white men (or women, except maybe Ms. Hurt) for this mess. Oh well, except maybe also the do-gooder State Department types and the volags pushing refugee resettlement.
Last year I was critical of some of reporter Chris Casey’s stories, but this one is superb.
Follow up of sorts on June 30th: For some reason lots of readers today are coming to this post from last September about ethnic violence going on in Grand Island, NE between the Somali and Sudanese Swift & Co. workers, here,
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