Members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and Tyson Foods workers at the poultry processing plant in Shelbyville overwhelmingly voted to overturn a union contract provision that replaced Labor Day as a paid holiday with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, it was announced this morning.
The new agreement will increase the number of paid days off for workers in the current calendar year to include both Labor Day and the Muslim observance as paid holidays for workers in the Shelbyville plant.
The agreement amends the existing contract negotiated last year, according to a press release from the RWDSU.
In a statement by Tyson spokesperson Libby Lawson, the food processing giant made this request on behalf of its Shelbyville plant employees, “some of whom had expressed concern about the new contract provisions relative to paid holidays.”
“In an effort to be responsive, Tyson asked the union to reopen the contract to address the holiday issue, and the union agreed to do so.” Lawson said.
The RWDSU membership voted overwhelmingly Thursday to reinstate Labor Day as one of the plant’s paid holidays, while keeping Eid al-Fitr as an additional paid holiday for this year only.
“This means that in 2008 only, Shelbyville employees will have nine paid holidays,” Lawson said.
The union says that beginning in calendar year 2009, a worker who does not observe Eid al-Fitr “will have the option of selecting another day as a paid Personal Day at their discretion.”
“The amended contract will be extended throughout the life of the current labor agreement and will recognize the following eight (8) paid holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and Eid al-Fitr or Personal Holiday upon an employee’s request.
“The union is pleased that the will of the workers in Shelbyville to observe and celebrate Eid al-Fitr will be guaranteed as a paid holiday,” said Stuart Appelbaum, national president of the RWDSU.
“The RWDSU believes that this is an important sign of respect of deeply held religious beliefs. This Labor Day, the workers at Shelbyville have more reason than ever to be proud of being part of a union.”
Earlier this week, local political leaders called on Tyson Foods and the RWDSU, asking both entities to reconsider the contract.
While Bedford County Mayor Eugene Ray said the food processing giant has been good to the community economically, “this is not the image we want from Tyson Foods.”…