Muslim workers at MSP Airport say they were fired for praying, company says it’s not true

“The Lord Allah has commanded us to pray these five prayers."

Edgar Linares
October 02, 2018 - 6:59 pm

By Edgar Linares

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Seven Muslim workers for a Delta Airlines subcontractor at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport say they no longer have jobs after praying during an unscheduled break.

“There was never a specific time where we had time for prayer,” said Mubarek Mohamed through a translator. “We always had to try and figure out when the aircraft leaves, when the aircraft comes, so it was based on us. But we were never given a specific time to let us know that you are allowed to pray.”

By Edgar Linares

Chicago-based U.S. Aviation provides complete fleet cleaning and maintenance service for the airline industry. In a statement, the company said most of their employees are Muslim.

Last Friday, seven workers for U.S. Aviation claim they were fired and had their badges taken away after returning from an unscheduled prayer break.  The Muslim religion requires five “obligatory prayers” each day.

“The Lord Allah has commanded us to pray these five prayers,” said Mahmud Kanyave one of the protesters.

Workers Union SEIU Local 26 who is trying to unionize aircraft cleaning crews for U.S. Aviation joined the group and helped organize the rally and march. The group met at the Terminal 2 light rail station and then marched to Delta headquarters.

By Edgar Linares

Muslim protesters at the rally said they want scheduled prayer breaks, and they want their safety concerns addressed.

A statement from U.S. Aviation said they already offer scheduled prayer breaks for all their Muslim employees.

“We have taken affirmative steps to ensure our Muslim employees’ faith is respected and accommodated in the workplace,” read the statement. “Specifically, we afford several daily prayer breaks and dedicated prayer space for our employees who want to exercise that aspect of their faith, as well as multiple and regular breaks throughout the workday to allow for prayer in accordance with the employees faith.”

U.S. Aviation said the seven employees in question didn't take the pre-approved prayer breaks and caused a delay for hundreds of passengers after leaving an aircraft unattended for an unauthorized period of time.

The company also said the employees were not fired, they were disciplined and asked to return on Monday, October 1 to speak with management about the situation. U.S. Aviation said none of the employees returned on Monday.

SEIU Local 26 has a written agreement with U.S. Aviation to be the exclusive bargaining representative for the company’s employees provided they demonstrate the union has the majority support of the employees. U.S. Aviation says despite request the SEIU Local 26 has not produced evidence of majority support from current employees.

"…perhaps it’s failure to do so reflects our employees’ understanding that the recent claims made by the union regarding the company and its operations are utterly false,” said the company statement.