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Somali Immigrants Make Demands of Amazon

December 31, 2018

Despite being THE online powerhouse and a great place to find virtually anything, Amazon is apparently not the best place to work, at least for some. 

I’m sure many of us have read and heard multiple accounts of employees anonymously complaining of working conditions and “unreasonable” production demands. 

But it seems none more than the Muslim community. 

Adherent Muslims are required to pray five times a day, every day. If anyone is interested, the five prayers are as follows: 

Fajr – the dawn prayer.

Dhuhr – the noon prayer.

Asr – the afternoon prayer.

Maghrib – the sunset prayer.

Isha'a – the night prayer.

According to Vox.com, Amazon warehouse workers get two 15-minute breaks and one 30-minute break each shift, per federal regulation. Considering how often Muslims must pray, this doesn’t give them any time to do anything else. So they have to make a choice. Or do they? 

Muslim workers in Minnesota don’t want to make the choice. They prefer to complain to management. 

But rather than remind these employees of what they agreed to when they were hired, Amazon is attempting to accommodate the Muslim workers by offering a compromise

Warehouse/fulfillment center employees are expected to maintain a daily productivity quota. The compromise Amazon came up with is: “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 seems reasonable for a company that must maintain a constant flow of product, but it is evidently not good enough. At least not good enough for Muslims in Minnesota. 

There are so many Somali Muslims in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that local press has referred to Minneapolis as “Little Mogadishu” because it is the largest Somali community outside of East Africa. And many of them work at the Amazon Shakopee fulfillment center in suburban Minneapolis. 

Shakopee employs about 1500 workers, of which about 30 percent are Somali Muslims. 

Among the complaints from these Somali Muslims, beyond prayer accommodations, is a lack of representation in management. Apparently, there are not enough Somali-speaking managers. 

Well, heck. I guess it’s just too much to ask anymore, that people who come to America, for whatever reason, be able to speak English or make an effort to learn. But no – we and Amazon must instead accommodate them. This is what passes for fairness these days. 

Now, as far as the prayer issue goes. I understand that Islam requires that Muslims pray five times a day and I respect that. But attempting to force a company, small or large, to give special privileges to a portion of the workforce and not to all is not fairness. 

Amazon has already given them a dedicated prayer room, and I guess it must be large enough to accommodate 450 people (30% of 1500 employees). No one else gets there own special room. They allow up to 20 minutes for prayer, when all other employees get 15-minute breaks, and they are attempting to hire more Somali-speaking managers. 

No one is forcing these Somali immigrants, whatever their status, to work for Amazon. This is not a communist country, where your job, like it or not, is chosen for you. If an employee, or group of employees, isn’t happy, they are free to seek employment elsewhere. If Amazon is the only employer that will hire them, they, not the employer, should be expected to comply with Amazon’s rules, not make a bunch of demands after they’ve been hired. 

From my experience in business, the best way to crater overall employee morale is to start playing favorites. It’s one thing to favor individual employees on the basis of merit. Most companies do that, and it’s perfectly proper – even encouraged. But what employers cannot do is to cave to the demands of a segment of their workforce. You, as the employer, compromise once, and you will be expected to compromise again and again with each new demand. And you can be certain that there will be more once you venture down that road. 

There is an old and now politically-incorrect saying: The inmates are running the asylum, meaning, the people least capable of running a group or organization are now in charge. 

Amazon is large enough to easily weather this storm, but if they continue to capitulate to a relatively small group of upstarts, allowing the group to make policy, chaos may be the eventuality, at least at this one facility. 

And it will serve Amazon right for bowing to the demands of a minority of workers. All in the name of political correctness, and of course, fear of being labeled racist.

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Copyright ©2018

Brent Smith, "The Common Constitutionalist," offers not just conservative commentary and analysis, but a blend of politics, history, arts, science, and humor. Whoever said conservatives aren’t funny? Yeah, I know…most people. Brent is a contributing writer for numerous online publications. When he is not burning the midnight oil writing his insightful commentaries, he is raising his two teenage sons to be patriots and Conservatives.
Visit Brent Smith's website at www.commonconstitutionalist.com