The Minneapolis Start Tribune reports in American Crystal Sugar workers reject contract offer:
One of the longest work stoppages in recent Minnesota history will continue as locked-out union workers at American Crystal Sugar Saturday rejected essentially the same contract for the fourth time, this time with 55 percent voting against it.
While opposition to the contract has dwindled -- 96 percent voted against it 16 months ago just before the lockout started -- rising economic duress hasn't deterred a majority of workers. In June, during the last contract vote, 63 percent voted "no."
The number of workers voting has progressively fallen, as several hundred have by now retired from Crystal Sugar or quit and taken other jobs. The union declined to say how many workers voted.
But those who rejected the contract again believe they've come too far to quit now in opposing an intransigent company, said John Riskey, president of Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers Local 167G.
"After what they have gone through and the fight they have put up, they want to keep up and continue fighting," he said.
In a statement released following the vote, the Minnesota AFL-CIO said:
“By now it should be clear that Dave Berg & Crystal Sugar’s management team has no interest in ending a fiscally irresponsible lockout that has been disastrous to farmer shareholders, put the federal sugar program in jeopardy, and hurt countless families in the Red River Valley,” said BCTGM Local 167G President John Riskey. “It’s time for shareholders to reclaim their company & send management back to the table for real give-and-take negotiations.”
Since the Crystal Sugar Lockout began:
· Profits have fallen. Net proceeds fell more than 30% in fiscal 2012 to $555 million, compared to $811 million for the fiscal year that ended August 31, 2011. The amount received by growers per ton of beets fell more than $14 to $58.67. In contrast, farmers at Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative are projected to receive $74.05 per ton in 2012. Western Sugar expects $82.70 per ton, and Michigan Sugar expects $87.74 per ton.
· Production is down. Warehouses are full of unsalable remelt. Production of molasses - a less valuable product compared to sugar - grew 124% due to storage problems and production delays. Tons of products produced and sold declined more than 15% in fiscal 2012, to the lowest level in a decade.
· Debt continues to rise. Short-term debt increased to $110 million at the end of August 2012, a 66% increase from the $66.2 million in debt at the end of fiscal 2011, and a 2100% increase from $5 million in debt at the end of fiscal 2010. American Crystal had its lender increase its line of credit by $60 million.
In October, the AFL-CIO called for a nationwide consumer boycott of American Crystal Sugar products. With Crystal’s refusal to end the lockout, the boycott will continue.
Added Riskey, “BCTGM members thank all who have continued to support our stand for justice and dignity and who have helped our families survive these hard times.”
American Crystal Sugar has processing plants in East Grand Forks, Crookston, and Moorhead, Minn.; Hillsboro and Drayton, N.D.; and packaging and transportation sites in Chaska, Minn. and Mason City, Iowa. Workers at these facilities are represented by BCTGM Locals 167G (Grand Forks, N.D.), 265G (Chaska), 267G (Crookston), 269G (Mason City) and 372G (Hillsboro, N.D.)
Bluestem opted for another brand when we picked up brown sugar for our Christmas cookies.
Image: By Tild.
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