The locked-out sugar workers are members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. They rejected the company’s contract by a 96 percent margin July 30. A few months later the union rejected a similar offer by a 90 percent margin.
Woinarowicz, who has worked at the plant here for 34 years, said they rallied at all five American Crystal factories that day in the Red River Valley of northern Minnesota and North Dakota.
“It was a good way to start the new year,” Scott Ripplinger, a locked-out worker from East Grand Forks, Minn., said in a phone interview.
The “Return to Work Day” protests were called in response to the naming of American Crystal Sugar President and CEO David Berg as the “person of the year” by The Forum newspaper in Fargo.
The distinction bestowed on Berg caused a strong reaction. “To many in the Fargo-Moorhead area, and especially the workers of American Crystal Sugar affected by the lockout, this decision by The Forum could be considered to be a slap in the face,” wrote Kari Knight in a letter printed in the paper.
About 100 locked-out workers live in Drayton, a town of 700. Driving through the streets here many houses have union signs. Workers at both the plant here and in Hillsboro, American Crystal’s other North Dakota factory, have been denied unemployment benefits by the state.
“We come from an area where people watch your back,” said Woinarowicz. “We have lots of support here and that keeps us going.”
Woinarowicz is one of the “ambassadors” for the union. He was part of a trip to the Twin Cities in November where more than $25,000 was raised from unions there for the sugar workers’ fight. “I’m ready to get on the road again,” he said.
Send solidarity messages and donations 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.
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