Knutson writes in Lockout law firm hurts workers, employers:
Lockout. It’s a word we’re all too familiar with in Minnesota. First, let’s be clear what a lockout is: It’s the opposite of a strike. The employer withholds work in order to gain concessions from workers.
While we see the National Hockey League player lockout coming to an end, Minnesota still has three major lockouts on its hands. Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra have been locked out since the fall. And one of the most egregious examples is in the Red River Valley, where 1,300 skilled and highly trained workers who turn beets into sugar have been locked out for nearly 17 months by their already profitable employer — American Crystal Sugar.
Besides the fact that these employers all are located in Minnesota, there is another common thread. All three employers are represented by the Minneapolis law firm of Felhaber, Larson, Fenlon and Vogt at the bargaining table.
While those lawyers prosper, the rest of us are missing the sweet music from two orchestras, And sugar beet farmers, as well as locked-out workers--are paying for those billable hours, as Knutson continues:
Crystal Sugar’s farmer-shareholders haven’t been spared pain in this lockout either. Shareholders have typically been paid about the same per ton of sugar beets — or more — as shareholders in the nearby Minn-Dak Sugar Cooperative. But this year, Crystal Sugar has estimated a beet payment of $59 per ton, while Minn-Dak’s latest estimate is for a payment of $74 per ton.
These lockouts continue to hurt workers, employers and communities. So, why are they continuing?
The only ones who seem to be benefitting are the employers’ lawyers. Are these attorneys giving their clients the best advice? Will these lockouts leave wounds that are too deep for time to ever heal?
This isn't the first time Bluestem has seen this: management hiring a law firm with a rep for union busting. Is it in the best interest of the shareholders? Bluestem suspects there are farmers who'd love to have that $15 per ton to spend on their operations in their own communities, rather than watch management cut checks to a Twin Cities law firm and other costs of the lockout.
Photo: One big old pile of sugar beets--and American Crystal Sugar shareholders got $15 less than another area co-operative members. That's a lot less money to spend on their Main Streets.
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