GRAND FORKS, N.D. - A majority of the American Crystal Sugar Company's 1,300 locked-out union workers voted in late June to reject the same demands for concessions that the firm's management issued nearly one year ago.
A total of 82 percent of union members voted on the demands. Of those, 63 percent voted to reject Crystal's contract offer.
Some 1,300 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers (BCTGM) union have been locked out of seven Crystal Sugar production plants and other facilities in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa for 10 months. The company, a farmer-owned cooperative, has been operating with replacement workers.
"The non-negotiable demands of Crystal Sugar executives would dismantle union workers' health coverage," BCTGM local union leaders said in a statement.
The union said the company's offer also would:
- Compromise safety and product quality by exempting outside contractors and supervisors from random drug testing.
- Disregard the value of skills and experience, and open the door to favoritism and nepotism in job promotions.
- Drastically diminish workers' protection from unjust discipline, and
- Suppress workers' voice on the job.
"Crystal Sugar executives apparently can't stand prosperity, and would rather waste millions trying to starve workers into submission than engage in constructive negotiations," the union leaders said. "We know real give-and-take negotiations are the only way to get this cooperative back on track to productivity and profitability.
"Crystal Sugar was built by cooperation among farmers, factory workers and managers. That cooperation has produced record profits in recent years, and only through cooperating will we be successful again."
Story courtesy Workday Minnesota. Video: Journey for Justice, February 2012.
Photo: Locked-out Crystal Sugar worker Mark Froemke, left, from East Grand Forks, Minn., with fellow union members Jerry Hertwig from Hunter, N.D., and Jan Bailey from Grand Forks, June 6. Locked-out union members gathered for a rally in the Moorhead Center Mall parking lot across from Crystal Sugar headquarters in Moorhead, Minn. David Samson/The Forum/AP