As the lockout of union workers continues, families are feeling the pinch as school children get ready to return to the classroom. The Load the Truck/BEET the Lockout initiative has been created to help them out.
Meanwhile, the Crookston City Council is writing a letter to, the head of the union writes, and . In the Cities, the Star Tribune reports that the biggest test of management's wager has yet to come, as the sugar beet harvest has yet to begin.
The Crookston Times reports in Load the Truck/BEET the Lockout initiative launched:
Organizers of Load the Truck/BEET the Lockout said many families in the area are affected by the American Crystal Lockout. Since school is right around the corner, some are having a hard time trying to get school supplies for their children. The community can help by donating money or any type of school supplies (i.e. backpacks, pencils, pens, erasers, two pocket folders, crayons, school box, glue, scissors).
Starting today, there will be a Load the Truck booth next to the local union headquarters on Main Street (former Rock's Jewelry building) where donations can be brought. Several businesses in Crookston will also have donation jars.
There will also be a Picnic in the Park fundraiser on Saturday, Aug. 27, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Highland Complex, with all proceeds going toward Load the Truck/BEET the Lockout. For $1.50 you'll a hot dog, chips, drink and a cookie.
Bluestem has contacted friends in the labor movemnt to see if there's a way that people who live outside of the Valley can help out.
Elsewhere in the Times, City Editor Natalie Ostgaard reports in City open to writing simple, impartial letter on Crystal situation:
Although the Crookston City Council stopped short of fully supporting a request to send out letters urging both sides to resolve the American Crystal Sugar labor dispute, council members and Mayor Dave Genereux did agree that he would draft and sign a simple, impartial letter to the union and company management.
A large group of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers union members employed by American Crystal attended the council's Monday night meeting to ask – like they're doing in other cities in which they have a strong presence – that the council send a letter to both company management and the union urging both sides to get back to the negotiating table and resolve their differences so the employees can get back to work. The council agreed to take the matter under advisement but made no decision at the time.
After discussing it during the Administrative Committee meeting that followed, however, the consensus was to have Genereux alone sign the letter, modeled after the one signed by East Grand Forks Council members. There was some concern about treading into territory that some might construe as biased.
Read the article at the Times. Ryan Schuster at the Grand Forks Herald reports in Union leader sends letter to Crystal president:
The international president of the union that represents the 1,300 locked out American Crystal Sugar Co. employees wrote a sternly-worded letter to American Crystal’s president last week, imploring him to end the lockout and resume negotiations with the union.
In a letter dated Aug. 18 and addressed to American Crystal president and CEO Dave Berg, Frank Hurt, the international president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, asked Berg to “immediately end the company’s strike against your workers and meet with their union representatives to negotiate, in good faith, a fair and equitable collective bargaining agreement.” . . .
“I have rarely seen a company act as boldly and unfairly against its workers as American Crystal Sugar,” Hurt wrote in the letter. “Our members have devoted their professional careers to the success of your company and for that loyalty they have had their lives harshly thrown in to turmoil, uncertainty and hardship.” . . .
Brian Ingulsrud, American Crystal’s vice president for administration, said the company had no response to Hurt’s letter. Ingulsrud said the letter won’t change the company’s course in its dealings with the union.
“There really isn’t anything new to report,” Ingulsrud said.
Read the entire article at the Herald. On the paper's oped pages, Gerald Larson writes in a letter to the editor, Cut American Crystal execs’ pay while boosting workers’:
I am a concerned resident of North Dakota in no way associated with Crystal Sugar or the employees’ union.
If the salary figures stated by Scott Ripplinger in his recent column are correct, I think the Crystal Sugar board should offer an explanation to the public as well as to the locked-out employee as to why it is necessary to cut employee benefits when the board is able to increase executive salaries at a ridiculous rate (“Crystal worker calls contract sour, not sweet,” Page A4, Aug. 16).
For example, I’m referring to Dave Berg’s salary increase of more than $1 million in a three-year period to a total salary of nearly $2 million. . . .
Check out his conclusion at the paper.
Steve Share of the Minneapolis Labor Review reports via the Twin Cities Daily Planet that Sugar lock-out includes distribution facility in Chaska, frustrated workers. The 19 Chaska workers are a close-knit group:
"It's like a small little family," Lahr said. "They're hunting and fishing together... Most of us are long term employees," he said, with 15-38 years on the job (for Lahr, 36-1/2 years). They know the names of each other's kids. "We've been here a long time."
Read the long piece at the TCDP. The Star Tribune's Mike Hughlett reports in Beet harvest will test American Crystal Sugar's lockout strategy:
It's been three weeks since American Crystal Sugar locked out 1,300 workers in a contract dispute, but the company's biggest economic test of the lockout is still to come.
Weather-related crop setbacks have delayed the harvest, so American Crystal's five Red River Valley plants - while teeming with replacement workers - aren't yet actually processing beets.
When the Moorhead-based company starts up those factories, it will be relying on a relatively inexperienced workforce, upping the risk of production shortcomings, industrial relations experts say.
Ultimately, that risk is borne by the 2,800 growers who own American Crystal Sugar, a cooperative. Their income is partly determined by how efficiently the lumpy beige roots from their fields are transformed into fine white sugar. . . .
Check out the story at the Strib. The Grand Forks paper notes that the run-up to the harvest will be underway in the beginning of next month in Crystal to begin pre-pile lift Sept. 6:
American Crystal Sugar Co. has announced to shareholders that they’ll start pre-pile harvest on Sept. 6 with beet slicing, or processing starting in all of its five factories. In the southern Red River Valley, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative at Wahpeton will start harvest Sept. 21-22, and will start slicing at its single factory on Sept. 23.
Dan Bernhardson, the farmer-owned co-op’s director of agriculture, said the later-than-normal start is due to lower yield projections. The current projection ranges from 20 tons to 22 tons per acre, which would be the lowest in the past five years. The lowest during that period was 22.3 tons in 2009, and the five-year average is 24.5 tons per acre.
. . .Bernhardson earlier had said recent crop sampling data would likely be a topic for the Aug. 24 regular board of directors’ meeting that is reportedly scheduled in Grand Forks, starting in the morning. The so-called full-scale, 24-hour harvest will start about Oct. 1.
How will the lockout affect the harvest? The Herald reports:
It is unclear whether Crystal’s labor issues will be a part of the board meeting. The board has a sub-committee that is regularly briefed in detail on the labor impasse, which has resulted in a lock-out of 1,300 union workers. It isn’t clear a later processing start will play any part in the settlement of the dispute.
Photo: Sugar workers and their allies march on the bridge between Moorhead and Fargo.