SHAKOPEE, Minn.—About 100 people protested outside Amazon’s fulfillment center in the Twin Cities’ southern suburbs Dec. 14, demanding that the company treat African-immigrant workers more fairly.
At least 30% of the warehouse and shipping facility’s more than 1,500 workers are from East Africa, mostly Muslims, and if they follow Islam’s principle that they pray five times a day, they have trouble meeting their quota of packing 240 boxes an hour, says Khadra Ibrahin, a 28-year-old Somali immigrant who works the 12½-hour night shift. “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,” she told Vox. Amazon warehouse workers get the federal minimum of two 15-minute breaks and one 30-minute break each shift. The company said in a statement that “prayer breaks less than 20 minutes are paid, and productivity expectations are not adjusted for such breaks. Associates are welcome to request an unpaid prayer break for over 20 minutes for which productivity expectations would be adjusted.” “They are always pressuring us to do more,” says Ibrahin. “They think we are robots, not humans.”