Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2009, pg. 56
Muslim American Activism
Zakat Feeds Striking Teamsters
Zakat Foundation, a Muslim-run relief and development charitable organization based in Bridgeview, IL, decided to provide daily lunches to Teamsters Local 743 at SK Hand Tools in Chicago and McCook while they are on strike against the company’s decision to unilaterally and without warning withdraw employee health coverage.
“President Obama is leading a national debate about how to protect hard-working Americans from callous employers like SK Hand Tools,” said Teamsters Local 743 president Richard Berg. “This French-owned company has left us no choice but to strike for our basic needs, including health care,” he continued. The National Labor Relations Board filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the company prior to the strike, alleging illegal bargaining over management’s stoppage of health care coverage with no advance notice.
David Biedrzycki, a union steward at the plant who has worked as a welder/grinder/polisher for 25 years, earned only $8,000 this past year. He has not worked in six months and noted the irony that Claude Fuger, the company’s wealthy French owner, recently returned to France—which has national health care—for treatment when he became ill. Claude makes $280,000 a year, Biedrzycki said, “and he wants us to pay for our own health insurance because the company can’t afford it!”
“In this economic crisis, many hard-working American men and women deserve our sympathy and respect,” said Zakat Foundation executive director Khalil Demir. “While they strike against this unjust decision, it is our duty as a humanitarian organization to provide them with food.”
During the holy month of Ramadan, Zakat Foundation provides food for poor and needy communities in the Chicago area and abroad. Since 2001, it has fostered charitable giving to those in need through immediate relief and long-term development projects in over 30 countries. For more information, please visit <www.zakat.org>.