Tyson Foods union reinstates Labor Day as paid holiday after Eid backlash

The lede makes it sound like the union reconsidered under pressure, but read the fine print. Tyson simply decided to give them an extra day this year to make the controversy go away, so now they’ve got Eid and Labor Day off. Which means the dramatic overturning of the previous contract amounts to little more than the union choosing to accept nine paid holidays instead of eight.

Members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) and Tyson Foods workers at the poultry processing plant in Shelbyville overwhelmingly voted to overturn a union contract that replaced Labor Day as a paid holiday with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, it was announced this morning.

The new agreement will increase the number of paid days off for workers in the current calendar year to include both Labor Day and the Muslim observance as paid holidays for workers in the Shelbyville plant…

The union says that beginning in calendar year 2009, a worker who does not observe Eid al-Fitr “will have the option of selecting another day as a paid Personal Day at their discretion.”

“The amended contract will be extended throughout the life of the current labor agreement and will recognize the following eight (8) paid holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and Eid al-Fitr or Personal Holiday upon an employee’s request.

Each employee used to get his or her birthday off, too, but it sounds like that’ll be replaced going forward by the “Personal Holiday.” If you’re non-Muslim, presumably you’ll take it on your birthday; if you’re Muslim, you’ll have to choose between your birthday and Eid. Oh well: Freedom of contract includes freedom to renegotiate, and they agreed to it. Read all of the Times-Gazette story, though, as it features some amusing quotes from local officials pretending that the outrage here had more to do with Labor Day being replaced than with what it was being replaced by. Using a holiday dedicated to the rights of workers to limit workers’ rights to negotiate their own holidays makes no sense to me, but since it’s a red herring anyway we needn’t dwell on it. See the very end of the piece (or this story) for what the debate is really about. Exit quotation: “Their custom is to negotiate everything, but here you go into stores, you don’t negotiate, you make your mind up if you want to pay for it or not.”