NLRB dismisses labor complaint against American Crystal Sugar, union will appeal

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The regional body of the National Labor Relations Board dismissed a labor complaint this week alleging that American Crystal Sugar hadn’t negotiated in good faith before 1,300 workers across three states were locked out.

The decision by NLRB Region 18 Director James Fox noted that the company had clearly stated its objectives throughout negotiations. It also found that the company shifted its positions in the last few rounds of talks, which the decision said didn’t “reflect bad faith.”

Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union Local 167G President John Riskey said in a statement that the union planned to appeal immediately: “While we strongly disagree with the regional NLRB’s ruling, it does not come as a surprise.”

Riskey said the union is still willing to negotiate.

American Crystal Sugar sent out a letter to employees Wednesday detailing the decision.

“Throughout the entire negotiating process, the Company has worked hard to find mutually acceptable settlements to contract language questions that are very important to both sides,” read the letter from American Crystal Sugar Vice President for Administration Brian Ingulsrud. “Our negotiation proposals were made in good faith, and we have tried to find common ground with the BCTGM bargaining committee.”

Ingulsrud said the company was hopeful that employees will return to their jobs. But American Crystal Sugar has stocked the plants with temporary workers provided by Strom Engineering in Minnetonka, who the union says aren’t adequately trained.

Union members were locked out by American Crystal Sugar after they overwhelmingly rejected a contract proposal at the end of July.

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.