Respect Me, Respect My Faithby Nate Jackson
Hertz changed the rules.
Thirty-two employees at Hertz Car Rental at SeaTac Airport were suspended. We were exercising our protected right to practice our religion and the company punished us in violation of our negotiated agreement.
It was discrimination plain and simple, and we’re not going to take it lying down. We’ve seen discrimination before back home in Somalia. We weren’t going to let it follow us here. We are standing up.
Over 50 people of different faiths and ethnicity arrived at the SeaTac Airport to show that we support each other. We wore our maccawiis and our shawls. Our fez hats and our Kippahs.
We realize that an injury to one is an injury to all. We said a prayer together declaring our connection: Jews, Christians and Muslims speaking with one voice.
We won’t stand for religious discrimination. We’ve been working at the airport for years and had never caused problems or been reprimanded before, but Hertz decided to break its promise and suspend us for saying our prayers. That’s not right and we won’t take it.
Mohamed Hassan, wearing a flowing tan scarf, of the Somali Community Services Coalition spoke directly to the gathered cameras of local media.
“Some of the workers have been here for 15 years,” he said. “The company knows that we practice our religion, that we pray and they still suspended us. Here in America we have the freedom of speech and religion; it’s in our constitution.”
We marched around the Hertz rental location.
“No jobs, no peace!” we shouted as port authority police officers looked on.
One man yelling from the back of the crowd denounced Hertz as changing the rules without warning. He was suspended when he went to his afternoon prayer--the prayer he has been attending for nearly 10 years.
Hertz management snapped photos of us, trying to scare us, but we would not back down. We work too hard creating the wealth that Hertz and other airport companies rely on to give up when we are wronged. What we want is fair treatment and to get back to work, and we are going to come back again and again until we get it.
We stood proud chanting at passing cars and well-wishers holding signs that read “Respect me, respect my religion,” and “Hertz hurts my faith.”
Other workers from the airport, after checking over their shoulders for the boss, snuck away from desks to cheer us on. They know that we are fighting not just for us, but also for anyone who works at the airport who deserves fair treatment and good jobs.
We are workers. We want to work; we need to work and we won’t be denied.
We’ll be back.