The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 44      December 5, 2011

Locked-out sugar workers
‘get word out’ on their fight
(lead article)
EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn.—As winter weather starts to set in, workers here resisting the 16-week lockout of members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union by American Crystal Sugar are making preparations and expanding efforts to reach out for solidarity.

Workers rejected the company’s concession contract proposal by 96 percent on July 30. Two days later bosses locked out 1,300 workers at its seven facilities and has been running its factories with nearly 1,000 scabs. On November 1 the union membership voted down a slightly different company offer by 90 percent.

Over the weekend of November 19-20, union members set up two warming sheds on trailers at the main picket entrances to the plant here. The insulated trailers are equipped with propane heaters. Workers locked out at American Crystal’s other plants in the Red River Valley—Drayton and Hillsboro in North Dakota and Crookston and Moorhead in Minnesota—are also preparing for colder weather.

Another round of food drive collections and deliveries has been set up for Thanksgiving. A semitrailer of food collected from unions in the Twin Cities in Minnesota is scheduled to be delivered by Teamsters Local 120. The Minnesota Nurses Association contributed $1,500 towards food purchases. The BCTGM locals are also contributing to the food drive effort, which is aimed at giving assistance to workers at the Drayton and Hillsboro plants, where the state Department of Labor has denied unemployment compensation to them.

American Crystal Sugar is stepping up efforts against the sugar workers, announcing it will be advertising for temporary employees. Openings for “non-union” positions of “limited duration” where there is “a union lockout is in progress” have been posted for manufacturing technicians, millwrights and mechanics. The company says on its website that “it appears that this lockout will go on for an extended period of time,” and that they have “decided to move on to the next phase of [their] contingency plan.”

Those who lead the farmers’ cooperative, which owns American Crystal, back management. Paul Mathiason, a former president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, wrote a letter published November 19 in the Fargo Forum in which he said the large growers “stand behind management and the board of directors… . We support the company because we want Crystal Sugar to be a good, strong employer far into the future.”

The union is stepping up efforts to get out the facts and the workers’ side of the story. Union members are scheduled to speak to a meeting of the National American Letter Carriers in Golden Valley, Minn.

Scott Ripplinger from the East Grand Forks plant told the Militant they would be “sending out crews across the country to get the word out on the fight in the valley. This fight can happen anywhere. If we lose, who’s next?”
Related articles:
Longshore workers prepare for long fight
Battle union busting at Washington port
Poultry workers strike in southeast Australia
On the Picket Line  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home