Muslim employees of the giant US reseller Amazon have staged a protest over the company’s refusal to grant them enough time to pray.
According to Press TV, some 300 workers at an Amazon fulfillment site in Shakopee, Minnesota, gathered outside their workplace on Friday, demanding better conditions.
Amazon’s strict workload standards means the warehouse has to pack at least 240 boxes an hour, but protesters said they had gone as high as 400 on a number of occasions.
Failure to meet the threshold will be punished by penalization, write-ups from the managers and possible termination.
The pressure forces Muslim employees, who need to pray five times a day, to forgo their brief bathroom breaks and use them instead to say prayers.
“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,” Khadra Ibrahin, a 28-year-old single mother of two who works 12-hour night shifts at the center.
“Every time I walk through those doors, I am filled this dread that tonight is going to be the night that I get fired,” she says. “When you take a job at a warehouse, you have to be mentally and physically prepared for a certain kind of work, but I have never felt threatened by a workplace like this before.”
“I want to keep this job to provide for my family, and I am also working as hard as I can, but you can’t live under this type of pressure. The way Amazon pushes people is not moral,” she added.
According to Ibrahin, most of the Amazon facility’s 3,000 workers belong to the East African immigrant community.
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."
Jaylani Hussein, the Executive Director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was one of the speakers at the event.
“I toured this facility and what I saw was a company that did not know who they were employing,” he said.
Minnesota Lieutenant Governor-elect Peggy Flanagan also encouraged the protesters to stand for their rights.