Muslim workers at an Amazon warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota, are protesting against their employer, claiming rigorous work requirements prevent them from praying.
What are the details?
Because of strict workload demands, Muslims, who are required to pray five times per day, are struggling to both meet the arduous demands of their employer while at the same time maintaining strict observance of their religious requirements. Some workers, such as 28-year-old Khadra Ibrahin, told Vox many Muslim employees are foregoing bathroom breaks in order to both pray and meet work requirements.
"Breaks make our rate slow down, and then we'd be at risk of getting fired, and so most of the time we choose prayer over bathroom, and have learned to balance our bodily needs," Ibrahin said.
So on Friday, warehouse workers, in addition to others in the community, protested outside Amazon's Shakopee fulfillment center, demanding better workplace conditions for Muslim employees.
Friday's protest was intended to pressure Amazon to not only improve working conditions and allow for proper religious expression, but to create a fund that addresses racial disparities in the community and set up an independent review body for HR complaints.
Joining Friday's protest was Rep-elect Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the first Somali-American representative elected to Congress.
"Amazon doesn't work if you don't work," she said during the protest, "and it's about time we make Amazon understand that."
Proud to stand with @Amazon workers in Shakopee as they stand up and fight for fair treatment and safe, welcoming working conditions.
We get what we organize for!#HearOurVoice pic.twitter.com/2ArpHMYGAN
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) December 14, 2018
How did Amazon respond?
The company cited its excellent compensation and benefits package, as well as its ongoing commitment to accommodate Muslim employees.
Amazon told Vox:
We work hard every day to ensure all of our employees are treated fairly and with dignity and respect, including here in Minnesota where we have an open and direct dialogue with employees. Amazon offers a great employment opportunity with excellent pay – ranging here from $16.25-$20.80 an hour, and comprehensive benefits including health care, up to 20 weeks parental leave, paid education, promotional opportunities, and more. [We] encourage anyone to compare our pay, benefits, and workplace to other retailers and major employers in the Shakopee community and across the country. We invite anyone to see for themselves and take a tour through our fulfillment center tour program.
Additionally, Amazon said "prayer breaks less than 20 minutes are paid, and productivity expectations are not adjusted for such breaks. Associates are welcome to request an unpaid prayer break for over 20 minutes for which productivity expectations would be adjusted."
This is not the first time Muslim employees working at this specific fulfillment center have protested against Amazon. In June, during Ramadan — Islam's holy month — Muslim workers complained about an "unfair" and "dangerous" workload, citing their requirement to fast during Ramadan, which makes the body weaker and more susceptible to exhaustion.