As the negotiation deadline were approaching, union employees ASKED to continue working while the union leadership and company negotiators worked in good faith together towards a fair contract WORKABLE FOR ALL. At midnight July 31/Aug.1, 2011, a white line was drawn across the street not allowing the midnight or ANY shift of union workers to come to work thus imposing the LOCKOUT with replacements already on site! We have asked for negotiations to continue conceding to much of their proposals; the company has NOT BUDGED ONCE from their "Take IT or Leave IT" offer! While families and communities still suffer, the company plasters billboards advertising our jobs and still says they are acting in good faith and want us back. NOT SO! American Crystal Sugar WAS what the UNION SKILLED workers made it! THIS IS NO LONGER SO! Profits are down, Damage is up! The madness of the LOCKOUT needs to end! The UNION SKILLED workers need to get back, doing what ONLY the UNION SKILLED workers do best and that's MAKING PROFITABLE GOOD QUALITY SALABLE SUGAR! Replacements screwed up football as they STILL daily are in ALL the sugarbeet factories! HELP END THE LOCKOUT of ACS's UNION workers!!!
- American Crystal Sugar Company and CoOp
Michael Frank headed over to a rally in East Grand Forks, Minn., one of many he’s taken part in over the past year. Frank, along with 1,300 other workers, was locked out of the American Crystal Sugar factory over a year ago, and the event was part of the workers’ ongoing efforts to urge the sugar beet processing company to return to the bargaining table.
“They don’t want to sit down with us,” said Frank, a 33-year veteran with the company and ex-day sugarwarehouse foreman. “We didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
The company locked out the workers Aug. 1, 2011, during bargaining talks over a successor contract between American Crystal Sugar and five local unions of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers (BCTGM) at various locations in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa.
BCTGM members overwhelmingly rejected the company’s final offer last year, not once, but THREE TIMES, which included significant increases to workers’ health care costs and major changes to job security, including the right to outsource work and vague seniority language with ultimately too many open-ended questions and beat-around-the-bush answers. (Sign a petition calling on American Crystal Sugar CEO Dave Berg to treat workers fairly and return to the bargaining table.) The company was NOT being honest nor forthright; obvious today!
Before locking out the workers, the company was hugely profitable, with $1.5 billion in fiscal 2011 net earnings, up from $1.2 billion in 2010. In 2011, CEO Dave Berg took in nearly $2.5 million in total compensation.
American Crystal has replaced the workers; some as early as 18 months PRIOR to the expiration date thus breaking the rules of the contract, bringing in people from around the country and creating tension throughout the once close-knit community. In small farming towns like East Grand Forks, it’s easy to run into someone who just took your job! How sad!!!
As Frank described it:
"We’re basically another middle class getting beat up here in the valley. What used to be family isn’t any more."
It’s also hard to imagine newcomers performing such highly skilled work. Before he became a foreman, Frank’s job involved molasses desurgarization—a new process by which more sugar is extracted by running molasses through resin beads with a revenue all on its own. A big job!
Although clearly frustrated by his many months off the job, Frank, 52, remains solid in his commitment to stick with his co-workers, his union and demand Crystal Sugar give workers a fair shake. A widower who’s caring for his three children, ages 6, 9 and 12, Frank is an active member of his local union’s solidarity committee, a group that reaches out to the Red River Valley community to mobilize participation in events and to fundraise for the families affected by the lockout.
American Crystal Sugar is a big player on Capitol Hill, giving more than $1.5 million in campaign contributions to members of both parties since 2011, according to opensecrets.org. The company is a beneficiary of a government policy that restricts imports of sugar from overseas, writes Minnesota Public Radio News.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent a letter to 177 members of Congress who have accepted campaign contributions from Crystal Sugar this year and urged them to send the company’s money back. In it,
"Rather than negotiate with BCTGM to provide a fair share of the earnings to the workers who were instrumental in generating them, this company and its management have embarked upon a path designed to break the union itself. David Berg, the current CEO, has likened the workers and their contract to a “cancerous tumor.” I am sure you do not approve of this blatant disregard for working families and their communities."
Many unions have contributed to the ACS LOCKOUT relief fund, and the workers have received support from throughout their communities, but, the union workers need more! Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) called on the company to return to the bargaining table and pointed out that the workers “stood shoulder to shoulder with the company to fight for a better sugar program in the farm bill just because that’s how dedicated they are. Yet, What have they got in return? They’ve gotten locked out."
(Watch a video of Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinksi calling Crystal Sugar CEO Berg—and you can do the same: 218-236-4400.)
Members of the unions’ “road warriors” group travels throughout the country to get out their message and build support. In May, two-dozen locked-out workers traveled from Drayton, N.D., for a seven-day, 200-mile journey to Moorhead, Minn., headquarters of American Crystal Sugar. Earlier this year, workers from American Crystal joined locked out workers from Cooper Tire in a 1,000-mile Journey for Justice from Fargo, N.D., to Findlay, Ohio. The journey highlighted the corporate greed behind the lockouts, and the growing drive by corporate CEOs to drive down wages and benefits to pad their own pockets.
Speaking at a rally, Anthony, 15, son of a locked-out worker, said Crystal Sugar would learn that "When you pick a fight with one working family, you are picking a fight with all working families." It's an attack on the Middle Class EVERYWHERE!
•Contribute to the ACS LOCKOUT relief fund.
•Sign a petition calling on American Crystal Sugar CEO Dave Berg to treat workers fairly and return to the bargaining table.
•Get the latest updates on the American Crystal Sugar LOCKOUT. Call 701-746-6133 and ask for Mel Morris, the Vice President of BCTGM local 167g and ask what all YOU can do to help!
Call Dave Berg at American Crystal Sugar 218-236-4400!!!!! HELP END THE ACS LOCKOUT of its UNION SKILLED workers! Thank You.
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