As America heads into the long Labor Day weekend, union workers at American Crystal Sugar remain locked out by management. Minnesotans can show soldiarity by joining a rally and action at Strom Engineering, which supplies scabs to replace those management won't let work.
Via the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation's Facebook page, the skinny on tomorrow monring's action:
American Crystal Sugar workers in Moorhead, East Grand Forks, Crookston, and Chaska, MN, Hillsboro and Drayton, ND, and Mason City, IA showed up to work last week only to find their company has locked them out. Instead of letting 1300 people continue working while a fair contract is negotiated, American Crystal Sugar executives have instead decided to hurt our communities with an unnecessary lockout.
Meanwhile, American Crystal S...ugar has been working with Strom Engineering to hire non-union replacement workers during the shutdown. It’s time to stand up against this injustice.
Join us on Thursday, September 1st from 8:00 to 10:00 AM for a rally and action at Strom Engineering to show solidarity with BCTGM workers.
WHO: Labor partners and allies who want to stand in solidarity with locked out BCTGM workers
WHAT: A rally and action to show solidarity for locked-out sugar workers
WHERE: Strom Engineering, Minnetonka (We’ll meet at the Park & Ride at I-394 and Hopkins Crossing at 8:00 AM and get rides over to the rally site)
WHEN: 8:00 to 10:00 AM on Thursday, September 1, 2011
Please RSVP to or contact Adam Robinson with questions: 651-252-1041 or email@example.com.
Need motivation to get over there? Go read a fascinating article in the Grand Forks Herald, UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE: Former corporate exec sees different side as locked-out American Crystal worker. Staff writer Ryan Schuster reports:
Gary Watts spoke in a soft Southern drawl as he sat on the couch of his family’s modest rental duplex in a quiet Grand Forks neighborhood.
Watts said he doesn’t regret leaving his once-fulfilling corporate job at Home Depot or moving to Grand Forks to be closer to his wife’s ailing father two years ago.
“It was the best decision I could have ever made,” he said. “It was a real blessing in disguise. This is a good community with great people. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
He also said he has no regrets about his decision to leave a steady job at the J.R. Simplot Co. plant in Grand Forks a year ago to become a campaign worker with American Crystal Sugar Co.
Watts, 48, became a year-round employee of American Crystal’s East Grand Forks plant in July. Less than a month later, he was one of about 1,300 workers in union-represented positions who were locked out of American Crystal facilities by the company on Aug. 1.
Read the whole thing and learn the lessons Watts has experienced as a union member. The Herald also published commentary by one of the farmers in the co-operative, VIEWPOINT: It’s all about risk, sugar beet farmer says. The article concludes:
. . .The newspapers have been full of stories lately about the labor situation affecting American Crystal and its union workers. Like every other farmer who owns stock in the company, I want to see this resolved fairly for the employees and the company alike.
We put a lot on the line when we bought stock in American Crystal and when we planted our crops this spring. As a farmer, I understand that those investments involve risk. In 2010, things lined up favorably for me and for other sugar beet farmers; in 2011, things will be much less in our favor.
We want a resolution to the labor contract that means that we can keep raising sugar beets when our crop or the sugar market turn against us. This means that we can continue to farm and that we can continue to provide jobs in our factories for our families, friends and neighbors.
Finally in the Grand Forks sister paper, the Fargo Forum, a look at the differences that North Dakota's right-to-work laws make for those locked out by management in American Crystal workers vs. Job Service North Dakota:
The labor dispute between American Crystal Sugar Co. and its unionized workers is at the one-month mark.
Early on in the lockout of the unionized American Crystal workers, it was determined by Job Service North Dakota that workers who are North Dakota residents do not qualify for unemployment insurance benefits. The reason cited is that North Dakota law does not allow a worker to receive unemployment benefits during a lockout situation. Job Service North Dakota administers the state’s unemployment compensation system.
On the other hand, American Crystal workers who are Minnesota residents are receiving unemployment benefits because the law in Minnesota allows workers who do qualify for unemployment benefits to receive them under a lockout.
Right to work
The situation with the locked-out American Crystal workers who live in North Dakota is pretty typical under a “Right to Work” or an ”Employment at Will” law. The employer in North Dakota almost always has the upper hand over an employee when it comes to an employee-employer dispute. . . .
Imagine what this would mean to a man like Gary Watts, who moved to Minnesota to help his wife care for her father, slipping away into Alzheimers. Minnesota politicians like ALEC members Gretchen Hoffman and Steve Drazkowski, both of whom favor the corporate bill factory's anti-worker agenda, would put Watts' family into a position where they'd have to take whatever management was offering.
Photo: Locked out workers.