There's a lockout at the American Crystal Sugar. Valley News Live has the latest in American Crystal Sugar Locks Out Workers, plans no new talks.
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The Grand Forks Herald reports in IT'S THE REST OF IT': American Crystal union workers say job security big issue:
Replacement workers were on the job at seven American Crystal Sugar plants, and some employees were picketing outside them today, after about 1,300 union members were locked out of facilities in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa.
The union’s contract expired at midnight Sunday after workers overwhelmingly rejected what the company called its final offer. The largest beet sugar processor in the U.S. had offered a 17 percent pay increase over five years, but workers were upset about provisions covering job security and health care costs.
'It’s the rest of it'
Carl Tofsley is retiring in October, when he turns 62. So, his union’s negotiations with American Crystal won’t impact him greatly.
“It’s not so much for me as for the other workers,” Tofsley said this morning as he picketed outside the gates to the factory on the first day of the lockout.
“Hey, we’re happy with the raises. The money is great. It’s the rest of it.”
For the 96 percent of workers who voted against the last company proposal, “the rest of it” means paying more for health insurance and a loss of job security.
“Job security is No. 1,” said Roger Delage, president of Local 2676, as more than 100 workers lined U.S. Highway 75 by the processing plant on the southern edge of the city.
“They say they took the wording out about job security, but they just reworded it. It’s still there. And the signing bonus money goes away fast when you consider the added health insurance costs.” . . .
The paper notes that solidarity in high on the lines, with virtually all of the plant's 164 workers picketing, with most of the drivers of passing cars honking their support. The Herald reports in Few hundred non-union workers hired for American Crystal lockout, company says:
A few hundred non-union workers are replacing American Crystal Sugar Co. employees during the lockout that started Monday, though details are scarce about who those workers are. . . .
Replacement workers were driven to and from work in vans with tinted windows, local union president Roger Delage said. . . .
The union disagreed that employees were easily replaceable.
“The jobs we do, it’s not rocket science, nor are we brain surgeons,” Froemke said Monday. “But the jobs we do in the factory are very skillful jobs. I just don’t believe they are going to be able to run five factories with transient workers who have never been in a sugar factory.”
In Five Things, including thoughts on the lockout, the Crookston Times editorial staff write:
Let’s make it a short lockout
Let’s make this a short lockout, shall we? Let’s get our skilled, experienced and dedicated American Crystal Sugar workers back on the job this week. The company said its offer late last week, rejected soundly by the union on Saturday, was its “final” one, but if this situation is going to move toward some type of solution, that really can’t be the case, can it? Tuesday’s Times’ editorial will discuss the contract offer, the company’s position and the union’s position, but in this space here today, the hope is that the company, a vital part of the Red River Valley economy, realizes that it needs its best people on the job in order to be as successful as it can be. Factories full of replacement workers doing critical duties as we head to pre-pile and campaign time? That just sounds counter-productive.[emphasis added]
Photo: Via MPR.