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American Crystal Sugar Lock-out
Lock-out for 1,300 union workers nears sixth months
at American Crystal Sugar

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, January 27, 2012

MOORHEAD  — Workers locked out by American Crystal Sugar since August 1 are disappointed the company rejected a formal proposal to end the labor-management dispute, union leaders said. At the same time, the company released a quarterly report showing the lockout has significantly lowered profits.

“Our members are disappointed, but hardly surprised, that the company has again rejected formal proposals to end the lockout put forward by our bargaining committee on January 11, 2012,” said John Riskey, president of Local 167G and lead negotiator for the 1,300 workers represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers union.

“Furthermore, we have not received a response to our request to the federal mediator to resume formal negotiations,” he said.

In a letter to employees posted on the American Crystal Sugar website, the company called the union’s offer “a publicity stunt” and said it would continue to hire replacement workers to process the sugar beets harvested in the fall.

However, the just-released quarterly report covering the three months ending November 30, 2011, indicates that Crystal Sugar’s replacement workers have failed to maintain the same productivity as its permanent workers.

According to the filing, consolidated net proceeds, or profits, fell by 39 percent or $73.6 million, “primarily due to 29.8 percent fewer tons processed during the three months ended November 30, 2011, as compared to the three months ended November 30, 2010.”

“This report shows that Crystal Sugar executives are hurting both their workers and growers by continuing this lockout,” Riskey said. “I hope the company agrees to return to the table soon before more damage is done.”

American Crystal Sugar is the nation’s largest processor of sugar from beets. The company has locked out workers at seven facilities in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa. The workers are fighting for a contract that preserves job security.

Riskey said the union “will continue to take our message — our demand for dignity and fairness — to the public, elected officials, to Crystal Sugar customers, and to the growers. This lockout is hurting workers and their families, but it’s also hurting our communities and the reputation of the company. If the lockout persists, it might also do long-term damage to the Sugar Program and our entire industry.”

The Sugar Program — protections in the federal farm bill for the domestic sugar beet industry — could be scuttled by opponents in Congress without the strong labor-management advocacy partnership of previous years.



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