1,300 workers locked out at American Crystal Sugar


After union members overwhelmingly rejected a contract proposed by American Crystal Sugar Company this weekend, management made good on its threats to lock out 1,300 workers in three states.

Ninety-six percent of voting union members rejected the contract Saturday; their contract expired Sunday night. Union members have expressed concern about increased health care costs and wording that would allow temporary workers to do union jobs.

“The company’s offer still has major loopholes allowing non-union contractors to replace union workers and makes health insurance unaffordable,” John Riskey, president of Local 167G of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers Union said in a statement after the vote. “Any raise is meaningless if our health care costs increase even more or if management can eliminate our jobs and replace us at will.”

The lockout affects 1,300 union workers at facilities in Moorhead, East Grand Forks, Crookston, and Chaska, Minn.; Hillsboro and Drayton, N.D.; and Mason City, Iowa.

The company had previously vowed to lock out workers and replace them with temporary employees if a contract hadn’t been approved by Aug. 1. The Associated Press reports that union workers showing up for work Monday were told not to cross a spray-painted line on the ground by security guards at the entrances of the plant in Moorhead, Minn.

Riskey read a statement Monday asking the company to reopen contract negotiations.

“Instead of letting 1,300 people continue working while a fair contract is negotiated, American Crystal Sugar executives have instead decided to hurt our communities with an unnecessary lockout,” Riskey said. “The company has the power to immediately end this lockout and return to the negotiating table.”

Brian Ingulsrud, Crystal’s vice president for administration told the Fargo Forum that there were no plans to negotiate any further.

Despite severe weather, workers began picketing the plants on Monday morning. MPR reported Monday morning that replacement workers were present at some facilities.