Two members from each of American Crystals five locked-out plants at the heart of the companys operations in North Dakota and northern Minnesota are going around speaking to other workers and unionists about their struggle. They call themselves sugar beet ambassadors.
On Nov. 22 two ambassadors, Becki Jacobson and Kevin Solum, both locked-out from American Crystals Moorhead plant, spoke to a crowd of 75 at a general membership meeting of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 9, in Golden Valley near here. Some $1,900 was contributed to the unions Action Fund from a combination of donations made by those at the meeting and union funds.
On Dec. 3 ambassadors are scheduled to speak to American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4001 in Brainerd. AFSCME Council 5 has donated $10,000 to the workers fund. Locked-out workers will also speak Nov. 29 at a Twin Cities union-sponsored fund-raiser and rally to support their fight at the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1189 union hall in South St. Paul.
The outreach effort comes on the heels of a successful food drive that distributed 30,000 pounds of food. It started out as a small project and ended up being a lot bigger with all the support and everything, locked-out worker Debra Kostrzewski told WDAY TV Channel 6. We figured wed do a really good one for the holidays.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, made his first public statement since the beginning of the almost four-month lockout on Nov. 23 urging both parties to return to negotiations and find a solution that returns those locked-out workers to their jobs and restores stability to the company and the communities in which it operates. Daytons only previous action was to meet with company executives and union leaders prior to the lockout.
American Crystal Sugar began running ads for replacement workers in local papers in Grand Forks and Fargo Nov. 20. The companys vice president for administration, Brian Ingulsrud, described the step to the Grand Forks Herald as a move into a new phase, one that is more efficient for more of a long-term lockout. He reported the company received 100 applications and their long-term goal is to hire 1,300. Ingulsrud told the Herald that because the company pays for housing and per-diem costs of the Strom-hired scabs, in addition to their wages, its more expensive than hiring workers from the area.
Donations to the sugar workers can be sent to BCTGM Local 167G, 100 N 3rd, Suite 50, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Write checks to BCTGM 167G with 2011 BCTGM lockout in the memo line.
To schedule speaking engagements, indicate who to contact and where.
Natalie Morrison contributed to this article.
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