A band of locked-out American Crystal Sugar union workers, family members and friends will begin a “Caravan for Cooperation and Real Negotiation” at the Crystal Sugar factory in Drayton, North Dakota, on Wednesday. The travelers intend to make their way to American Crystal Sugar corporate headquarters in Moorhead by late afternoon Wednesday, June 6, where they will participate in a vigil for productive negotiations. A federal mediator has scheduled a mediation session for June 8 between the union and the company.
Some 1,300 American Crystal Sugar workers — members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers union — have been locked out of their jobs since August 1, 2011.
The union hopes the eight-day trek from Drayton to Moorhead will garner renewed public interest in their cause to return to their jobs.
Caravan members plan to go by foot and hay wagon — and, perhaps, bicycles and, even, on horseback. Their route will take them past Crystal Sugar factories in East Grand Forks, Crookston and Hillsboro, on their way to Moorhead.
They also will stop at churches along the way to pray for cooperation and productive negotiations. Each evening, the caravan will stop in a town along the route for supper and sleep. Caravan members hope to talk with local residents about the lockout and how it is affecting their communities.
In announcing the trek, the BCTGM locals issued a statement: “Locked-out workers will travel down the Red River Valley to affirm that union members want to cooperate with Crystal shareholders and executives to end the lockout and negotiate a contract that is fair for all concerned… True negotiation is not a matter of one party accepting or rejecting the other’s take-it-or-leave-it offer. Rather, it is a cooperative conversation to understand and address both negotiating partners’ issues, and solve problems constructively. That’s what workers want to do on June 8 — and for however many days it takes: Cooperate and really negotiate.”
BCTGM invites members of other unions and concerned citizens to join the trek from Drayton to Moorhead. “We hope people will come and join us for a few blocks, part of a day or even a full day… Others can bring or prepare food, or help set up tents, campers, etc., on nights the caravan camps out. It will be fun!”