The Third International after Lenin

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

American Crystal Sugar lock-out

Sugar workers reject bosses' demands for third time

DRAYTON, N.D.—On June 23, American Crystal Sugar workers rejected by 63 percent the company's concession contract demands for the third time after a nearly yearlong lockout battle.

Despite many workers moving on to new jobs, or being forced by economic pressure to retire, the workers' union, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers, reported that 82 percent of the 1,300 eligible union members voted. "This was a good turnout after 11 months," Galyn Olson, president of the Hillsboro local, told the Militant. "I am proud of our union. The vote margin against the contract was high at the Hillsboro factory. And we have members who don't get unemployment, have lost homes, work low wage jobs, people really hurting."

American Crystal Sugar is the largest sugar beet processor in the country, with factories in East Grand Forks, Moorhead, Crookston, and Chaska, Minn; Hillsboro and Drayton, N.D.; and Mason City, Iowa.

The company is running its factories with scab labor and continues to run ads for replacement workers.

"I wasn't so sure whether the contract would pass or not in Drayton a week or two before the vote," said Paul Dahlman, a locked-out worker there. "But it was clear on the day of the vote the mood had shifted away from voting it up."

The company's offer is almost identical to their first offer, which was rejected by 96 percent of union members last July 30. It was rejected again by a 90 percent margin in November.

The bosses are demanding major concessions in health care, seniority rights, and contracting out of work, which workers see as a union-busting move.

"While we are disappointed in today's no vote by union members, American Crystal stands by our final offer," the company wrote on its website.

"The 63 percent rejection vote is a real strong vote after this much time," said Scott Ripplinger, a locked-out worker from the East Grand Forks plant. "We have made it crystal clear that a majority of us will not accept their terms. Workers everywhere must stand up to unacceptable concessions."

"I was glad it was voted down," said Russell Grandstrand, a locked-out worker from Drayton, while meeting with this reporter at the picket shack. "At the same time I want to let you know that I voted for it. I was sick of my $12 hour job, but I would never cross the picket line, I am union all the way."

Randy Johnson, also from Drayton, said, "On the day of the vote I was going in to vote for it. But when I went to mark my X, I voted no."

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