An airplane services firm, U.S. Aviation Services Corp., fired seven Muslim cabin cleaning workers last Friday. Delta Air Lines subcontracts with U.S Aviation to clean planes at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
In a Tuesday morning press release, the union representing the cleaning workers SEIU 26 asserted that all seven workers were Muslim and were fired for “exercising their freedom to practice their religion.” Two workers will speak at an afternoon rally joined by faith leaders and community supporters who will call for Minnesota employers to respect the freedom of every person to practice their religion and make clear that no Minnesotan should have to fear for their jobs or be disrespected at work because of their desire to worship in the way they choose in their free time.
The firing happened Friday when workers, as instructed, took their break to pray during a time when they had no planes that were ready to be cleaned. When the manager found the group praying, he began shouting and swearing at them, took their work uniforms and badges and told them they were all fired. Workers have not heard from their employer since that time.
Mubarak Mohamed, one of the fired workers and the shift lead of the group, shared what happened last week.
"While I was praying our manager Shelden begin to scream at me, saying 'f**k you, f**k you -- why did you take your crew to pray. You can't pray here,'" said Mohamed. "Not only was this offense and rude, but it was especially bad because I was following the company's rules on how to pray during work. No Minnesotan should have to fear for their jobs or be disrespected at work because of their desire to worship in the way they choose in their free time. My co-workers and I will fight to get our jobs back, but we need US Aviation to recognize our Union. The companies with a union don’t have this problem."
Another fired worker, Fardowsa Osman, shared her experience about what happened and what it means for her.
"I need this job in order to pay for my bills. I am happy to work hard and I like working with different people. Like many of the people who work at the Airport -- and all over Minnesota -- I am a person of faith who is a Muslim. Our boss is abusing his power and treats us badly many times before this, screaming and cursing at us while we work," said Osman. "Last week he fired me and six of my coworkers, just because we took five minutes to pray. No Minnesotans should be harassed or fired for exercising their freedom to practice their religion as protected by the law."
U.S Aviation’s parent company, the Chicago-based United Services, is not new to controversy. Another subsidiary United Maintenance Co agreed in 2016 to pay $850,000 to settle a federal wage-theft lawsuit brought by its Chicago O’Hare employees. In 2012 when United Services pursued the O’Hare maintenance contract, concerns were raised over suspected mob ties to former executive Paul Fosco, a vice president of United Service Companies. Eventually, the contract was awarded to United Maintenance displacing union contractor Scrub.
President and CEO of United Services Richard Simon has also been reported to have connections to organized crime. National Facilities Maintenance was a previous company of Simon along with William Daddano Jr. In 2004, Daddano was named, along with other members of his family, as a reputed member of organized crime by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
United Services Cos. disputes the workers narrative and instead asserts that the workers were never fired.