The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 46      December 19, 2011

(front page)
Dozens of unions organize rally to
support locked-out sugar workers
Above: Militant/Diana Newberry; Inset: Scott Ripplinger
Becki Jacobsen (above), a union “sugar beet ambassador,” and fellow American Crystal worker Deb Kostrzewski (inset), active in union’s food drive, speak at Dec. 3 meeting with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton in Moorhead. “Nobody can tell us what we can say or do,” Kostrzewski said. “We are not going to shut up—we are going to keep fighting.”

SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn.—Some 120 people turned out for a spirited rally and fund-raiser Nov. 29 in solidarity with 1,300 locked-out sugar workers in the Upper Midwest.

The event was held at the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1189 hall. “The locked-out sugar workers are always welcome,” said Jennifer Christensen, secretary-treasurer of Local 1189, as she opened the meeting. More than 30 area unions, the Minneapolis and St. Paul Regional Labor Federations, and the Minnesota Farmers Union endorsed the rally.

“Take a shift at the picket line. Stand with them as union brothers and sisters,” Jim Meyer, political organizer of Education Minnesota and the chair of the event, told rally participants. “This is what we do in our union. We go down to the picket line in Chaska every Wednesday.” Five of the 19 locked-out workers at the Chaska plant attended the event.

American Crystal has five plants in northern Minnesota and North Dakota, and at two smaller plants in Chaska, Minn., and Mason City, Iowa. Workers are represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union. They were locked out Aug. 1 after rejecting the company’s concession contract by 96 percent. On Nov. 1 they rejected a slightly different contract by 90 percent.

The company, which has been running its seven facilities with nearly 1,000 contract scabs, has begun hiring replacement workers from the local community, as part of its determined drive against the union.

Ken Lamberson, a worker at the East Grand Forks plant for 16 years, thanked members of Teamsters Local 120 who had delivered a semitrailer of supplies to the locked-out workers. The Teamsters, along with several other unions, provided some 50,000 pounds of food before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Several members of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 9, in Golden Valley, attended the rally. They reported that Becki Jacobsen, a locked-out sugar worker in Moorhead and a “sugar beet ambassador,” spoke Nov. 22 at their general membership meeting. Jacobsen is one of the leaders of a traveling outreach program organized by the union to speak to other workers and unionists about their struggle.

“The sugar beet ambassador program is a good tool to make unions aware of what is going on and what can happen to them,” Jacobsen told the Militant.

Custodians and bus drivers, members of SEIU Local 284, spoke about a union-busting move by the Robbinsdale school board to contract out their jobs.

“We are proud to stand with the sugar workers and plan to stay with you until you win,” said Jean Woznak, a bus driver for 16 years and union steward for SEIU Local 284.

Workers, unionists, their families and supporters shared a dinner, discussing the fight and other workers’ struggles. A total of $24,789 was raised from donations, according to Meyer.

On Dec. 3 some 400 locked-out workers came to a union-organized meeting with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton at the Moorhead State University Student Union.

Dayton spoke briefly. “In the next few days, we need to go to the bargaining table and stay until a contract is agreed on,” he said. “We have to compromise and agree with things we don’t agree with.” Dayton compared it to the “resolution” following the state government’s shutdown that laid off thousands of workers.

Speakers included local politicians, union officials, several locked-out workers and their family members, and a couple of professors. Sugar workers talked about their hardship and their struggle and asked Dayton to press American Crystal to end its lockout.

To invite one of the BCTGM “sugar ambassadors” to speak at your union contact Jessie Du Bois of the Minnesota AFL-CIO at (651) 665-9196 or email her at

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.
Related articles:
Ohio Steelworkers fight lockout by Cooper Tire
Reject bosses’ concession contract
New Zealand: Locked-out meat workers win support
Shut out of terminal, ILWU prepares protest of first ship
On the Picket Line
2 million public workers join 1-day strike in U.K.
Back workers’ lockout battles, strikes  
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