"What was once an unfounded rumor was now an apparent fact. So I contacted the head of media relations for Tyson Foods and asked what this was all about. While he disputed the figures given for the number of Muslims at the Shelbyville plant (Tyson claimed there are 250 while the union says 700) as well as other details, the food processing behemoth confirmed that Labor Day was indeed being phased out as a paid holiday in favor of Eid al-Fitr.
I even asked for a clarification at the request of my editor and Tyson again confirmed it. "Eid al-Fitr is one of eight paid holidays for all Team Members covered by the contract, while Labor Day is not a paid holiday," Tyson's Director of Media Relations Gary Mickelson stated in an e-mail.
So we printed it. It only took a little over an hour for the Associated Press to pick it up. But this time, our local story did not go on the state wire, as it normally would, but was instead placed on the AP financial wire.
Within hours, a crew from WSMV was being chased away from the Tyson plant and by 5 p.m. Friday evening, it was on television.
But that was nothing compared what else was happening with the story.
News sites, blogs and discussion forums all over the Internet were picking up the story like crazy over the weekend. A close friend called to tell me that it was the top subject on 99.7 FM, our area's biggest talk radio station.
And with very few exceptions, the reaction was very much like what has been seen on our website: People calling for a boycott of Tyson Foods along with outraged letters to the company and the union involved. Many point out how Christian beliefs are being sidelined in the workplace and schools while another faith is given special consideration.
Then there is the inevitable linkage to Islam in general and its more radical elements. Or linking the story to whatever agenda a person may have. One animal rights activist even sent me links to graphic videos containing animal sacrifices conducted for another Islamic festival. Another blog sought to connect the controversy to Barack Obama, since the union in question in this story has endorsed the presidential candidate.
So now, for good or ill, our little local situation concerning the Somali refugees is a hot nationwide topic. As of this writing, the story still continues to spread like a virus through the Internet and the media food chain. I would not be at all surprised if the top national talk radio shows discuss this on Monday morning.
Channel 4 is probably not the last news crew Shelbyville we will see over this.
So what do I think about all this?
Clearly, the accommodations given to the Muslims have upset a great many people here and across the county, especially if they believe, as many apparently do, that their traditional values are being suppressed in the name of cultural diversity and political correctness. More than one person has told me that their tolerance only goes so far, and this is obviously one of those times.
I have stated my opinions about the refugee issue itself before. It is my personal opinion that the drive to bring so many refugees to America are not prompted by just good will or concern for the plight of these poor people, but instead for the millions of dollars in federal grants that are available for settling them in this country. According to Chris Coen, who is trying to help out refugees of all nationalities, there is a lot of money to be made in this "profession."
I also need point out that it would appear that some of these refugees are being used for other reasons. I find some of the allegations about these employment arrangements to be awfully similar to this sort of thing, and it should not be tolerated.
I also have to say that I do not feel that I am "obsessed" or "fixated" with the topic of Somalis living here, as one blogger believes. The refugees have lived in Shelbyville for the past four years, and no one has even addressed the issue until the T-G published the series in December of last year.
I would also have to suggest that the blogger's opinion is quite possibly influenced by the fact that she makes her living by working with the Nashville refugee community, as she states on one of her other websites."
Hassan Yusuf, 22, said he and others were promised a bonus and a free month’s rent if they came to work at the plant. “We never got it,” he said. “They’re just trying to grab us here.”
He showed a paycheck stub from Jacobson Companies, a Des Moines-based firm that has been hiring workers to fill jobs at Agriprocessors. The check was for his first week’s work, with deductions for rent and a loan he said he never took out. After the deductions, he netted $8.61. The paperwork showed he was supposed to make $10 an hour, and that he’d been paid for 34.5 hours. He said he actually worked 48 hours.
He showed another paycheck stub, from his cousin, who netted nothing for a week’s work.
Yusuf said he quit the job this weekend and wants the recruiting company to pay for a bus ticket back to Texas, where he last lived.
There are somethings so obviously wrong with our immigration policies that it is hard to believe that our Congress won't act. From importing immigrants using our tax dollars by "professionals" to companies using illegal aliens to companies swapping holidays to well... I'll let you figure it out.
In the meantime meat packing used to be a well paying job.
Congress, the corps and the unions threw that away.
Maybe Glenn Beck is right. Pitchforks and torches on the village green.