Last month, in what was an expected election result, Democrats in Minnesota elected Ilhan Omar to be their next Muslim US Congresswoman. Omar will soon fill the seat of the disgraced outgoing Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison, who was recently forced to resign as the DNC vice chair, after multiple credible accusations of domestic violence. The Somali-born Muslim lawmaker, Ilhan Omar, brings her own set of baggage with her to Washington DC, including multiple campaign finance violation charges as well as a controversy surrounding allegations that she committed immigration fraud when she married and then divorced her own brother.
Omar has also received special treatment from our media, who have completely ignored a hateful tweet against Jews that was posted by Omar while she was a state lawmaker in Minnesota. In her tweet, Omar asked Allah to awaken the people to help them see the evil doings of Israel.
Before she’s even sworn into office, Congresswoman-elect Omar (D-MN) is joining the fight with fellow Muslims in Minnesota, to demand Amazon ignore the policies and work requirements responsible for making the company profitable, and instead, give their Muslim employees more time off for Islamic prayers.
According to Vox – East African immigrant workers in Minneapolis are rallying for fair treatment.
Khadra Ibrahin, a 28-year-old single mother of two and Somali immigrant living in Minneapolis, has been working at Amazon’s Shakopee fulfillment center for two years.
As a practicing Muslim, Ibrahin tries to pray five times a day. But because Amazon has the warehouse associates working on a strict hourly packing quota, she says she cannot take a prayer break. Associates are pressured to “make rate,” with the rate number increasing and decreasing depending on the season’s demand. Shakopee’s current packing rate is 240 boxes an hour, Ibrahin says, but it’s gone as high as 400. Associates are penalized if they fall behind this rate; they can get a write-up from a manager if they are too slow, which can lead to them being terminated.
Ibrahin usually chooses to pray during her timed breaks. “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,” she told me in a recent phone interview.
Ilhan Omar said in an email that she feels it’s important for Amazon to fully “take into consideration the particular needs and practices of this community.”
“Amazon has shown a willingness to invest in American communities and build up in areas where their businesses are located,” Omar says. “We want to see the company make that same investment in American workers and make sure profits and benefits are being adequately and equitably distributed to their own workers. There is no better time to deliver this message than right now — during a month when the holiday season is increasing not only Amazon’s profitability, but also the pressure on their workers, and time they are asked to spend away from their families.”
In response to the meeting, Amazon made changes that mainly dealt with issues around practicing Islam. Muslim Amazon workers had no place to pray in the warehouse, and they complained about not being able to keep up with the job during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when they fast until sundown. Amazon responded by creating a dedicated prayer space, and said it has been working to make shifts more manageable during Ramadan. But Muse says these moves are like Band-Aids that address small issues without tackling the larger problems.
In a statement to Vox, Amazon said:
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.
Regarding its prayer breaks, Amazon told me that “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.”
Ibrahin also says that until recently, nearly all Amazon managers at the Shakopee warehouse were white, which contributed to the culture gap many African workers perceive in the facility. Amazon recently brought in a Muslim manager for the warehouse from Austin who is from Libya. Muse says the hire is upsetting to existing workers because “there is plenty of talent [at the local warehouse], which is clearly not being recognized for managers.”