Update Thursday, 8/11/2011: For an update and news about hundreds rallying in Moorhead today, visit "Hey Joe Talley, backstabbing union workers again?": hundreds protest ACS refinery lockout [end update]
Looking around news about the American Crystal sugar lock-out in Northwestern Minnesota, the story hasn't gone away.
The editors of the Crookston Times write in a short editorial: Crystal, union need to start talking again:
Maybe we set the bar too high by asking over the past couple of weeks for American Crystal Sugar management and members of the union to get together and agree on a new contract that is at least reasonably satisfying to all concerned. If that is indeed the case, then this week we’re scaling back our expectations and simply asking that both sides start negotiating again in the hope that the current lockout of the union workers and the employment of the replacement workers end sooner rather than later. Anything is better than nothing, which seems to be what’s going on right now, other than both sides attempting to win the public relations battle through the regional media. Start talking, people; if this drags on too long, decent, hard-working people are going to really start hurting, and that pain will inevitably spread to the communities that they call home.
Workday Minnesota announced that Rally planned Aug. 11 to support locked-out sugar workers:
The rally is scheduled for noon, Thursday, Aug. 11, outside American Crystal Sugar headquarters at 101 N. Third St., Moorhead. Participants will also march to the nearby bridge spanning the Red River between Moorhead and Fargo, North Dakota, then go to Davy/Memorial/Riverfront Park to hear labor leaders and other speakers.
The union plans to run buses to bring members from Drayton, N.D., Crookston and East Grand Forks, said Mark Froemke, a union officer helping to coordinate the effort. Community residents and members of other unions also are scheduled to participate.
Those who cannot attend can show support by signing an on-line petition coordinated by the Minnesota AFL-CIO. More than 3,000 people had signed by mid-week.
“We want to show people they’re not alone,” Froemke said.
In the Grand Forks Herald, the chair of the North Dakota Democrats, Mark Schneider, writes in Sugar beet growers should tell American Crystal to end lockout:
The misguided lockout of American Crystal Sugar workers by management is taking a tremendous toll on working men, women and their families in the valley. The sugar beet industry is, of course, an integral part of the regional economy. American Crystal is owned by the regions’ sugar beet farmers and, ultimately, its managers are accountable to them.
Whatever Chief Operating Officer Joseph J. Talley’s motives are in locking out American Crystal’s own employees, the ultimate authority at American Crystal Sugar is the sugar beet growers themselves.
Beyond the federal subsidies they receive, sugar beet farmers have been blessed in recent years with both outstanding crops and outstanding prices. . . .
Yet, consider the irony: In the sugar beet owners’ name, COO Talley locked out the workers who in North Dakota cannot even receive unemployment benefits. . . .
Read the whole thing at the Herald. The Star Tribune looked at the company that supplies scabs in Strom helps strike back against unions (I suppose the Strib thought it was being clever with that headline, rather than grossly inaccurate in conflating a lockout with a strike):
For more than half a century, a little-known Minnetonka firm called Strom Engineering has provided troops to help companies across the country battle their unions.
American Crystal Sugar sought reinforcements from Strom when it locked out some 1,300 union employees in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa last week. Strom workers have stepped in at a steel mill for nearly a year, replaced striking mechanics at Northwest Airlines and kept a food plant running during a dispute.
To companies that hire Strom, it is an ally that can help their bargaining position merely by drawing up contingency plans for a work stoppage.
Union leaders who have gone up against Strom clients have a different view.
"To us, Strom is basically an outfit that hires mercenaries to basically go in and destroy communities," said Mark Froemke, president of the AFL-CIO's West Area Labor Council and a member of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers union, which represents the sugar beet workers.
Learn more at the Strib. A short report on a local radio station notes that Collin Peterson Concerned With Sugar Lockout:
Minnesota 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson says he's concerned with the possible implications of the employee lockout at American Crystal Sugar. In the long term, Peterson says it could play a role in sensitive negotiations over the federal sugar program.Peterson says he talked with Crystal management a couple of months ago. 1,300 crystal employees in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa are affected by the lockout, now in its second week.