By: C.S. Hagen
Friday September 18, 2020
Employees of Salad Makers Inc., who dress warmly to work in a chilled facility, gather around owner Tom Jacobson and Moorhead Human Rights Commissioner Cani Adan as they bump fists Wednesday, Sept. 16, after successful labor negotiations. C.S. Hagen / The Forum
MOORHEAD, Minn. — Eleven employees of a Moorhead, Minn., food preparation business were given the chance Tuesday, Sept. 15, to return to work after they told Forum News Service they were fired last week when they tried to approach management about poor working conditions.
Negotiations between management and the employees led to an agreement allowing them to keep working, said Tom Jacobson, owner of Salad Makers Inc.
All but three of the workers, who are originally from Somalia, opted to continue working at Salad Makers, said Cani Adan, a Moorhead Human Rights Commission member who served as a mediator between the workers and management. All 11 of the employees went to the business Tuesday to thank Jacobson and express happiness with the news.
“There is victory now. I want the public to know that we have come together and we are united now,” Adan said, adding that he will not be pursuing a lawsuit against Salad Makers, and will not be filing complaints with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.
“It’s very good news,” Jacobson said of the agreement. “We just got down to the truth, and everything came out just fine. I’m very pleased we came to a good arrangement, and almost everybody is back to work. A negative can be a positive.”
Last week in an interview with Forum News Service, the 11 workers who are all Muslim alleged religious discrimination, saying management did not let them take breaks to pray as required by their religion. Workers also said they worked long hours and were not paid overtime.
While Jacobson denied that employees were not given breaks and that he paid overtime, in the future Salad Makers workers will be allowed unpaid breaks for prayer and two additional 15-minute paid breaks daily, Jacobson said in a prepared statement. The company has also agreed to review the lengths of work shifts and develop updated handbooks, employee application forms and job descriptions, according to his statement.
“Salad Makers has been fortunate to employ members of the Somali community for many years,” Jacobson said in his statement. “We have always respected the diversity of our workforce and hope that a renewed focus on open communication will only improve our workplace.”
Along with Adan’s assistance, Jacobson recognized employees Mohamed Mohamed and Halimo Abdi for helping to resolve the issues.
“Everyone can go back to work, everyone,” Adan said, “and if they work overtime everyone will get paid overtime.”
While preparing for a group photograph alongside a company refrigerated truck, Jacobson joked with Adan that they should pose like fighters. Instead, they chose to bump fists as more than 20 workers gathered around them.
“This is good. They needed a break,” Jacobson said.