The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 76/No. 11      March 19, 2012

Frame-up charges are
‘clear attack on union’
2 locked-out sugar workers say ‘not guilty’
(front page)
MINNEAPOLIS—Two workers locked out by American Crystal Sugar Co. are fighting trumped-up criminal charges for alleged incidents while on picket duty at two of the company’s seven facilities in the Upper Midwest. Some 1,300 workers—members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union—were locked out Aug. 1 after rejecting the bosses’ union-busting contract proposal.

Brad Knapper, from the American Crystal factory in Moorhead, Minn., was framed up on a felony charge of property damage, as well as a misdemeanor charge, for allegedly scratching a scab’s car during a shift change on Dec. 14. Knapper is a member of the union’s negotiating committee.

Brad Nelson, from American Crystal’s plant in Drayton, N.D., faces a misdemeanor charge for allegedly spitting on a scab during a shift change the same day. Nelson is vice president of the Drayton union local also a member of the negotiating committee.

American Crystal’s five plants in the Red River Valley, and two smaller factories in Chaska, Minn., and Mason City, Iowa, have been run by hundreds of scabs the company lined up well in advance of the lockout.

If convicted, Knapper could face up to one year in prison. The maximum penalty for Nelson is 30 days in jail. The charges against both union leaders are based on the word of strikebreakers.

Knapper said he pled “not guilty” at a March 5 court appearance and that his case may go to trial March 29. He told the Militant he is determined to “clear my name and have all charges dropped.”

“Two union leaders, both on the negotiating committee, are charged on the exact same day. This is a clear attack on the union,” said Knapper.

“The way I see it, this is yet another attempt by the company to make the union look bad,” Dan Miller, a locked-out worker from the plant in Hillsboro, N.D., told the Militant. “Scabs claim something happened, go to the police and use it to go after the union. It’s a setup.”

“I’m not going to let this stand,” Nelson said in a phone interview with the Militant. He said he plans to “clear my name.”

“Mr. Nelson did not spit on anyone nor was he verbally abusive,” his attorney, Daniel Phillips, told the Grand Forks Herald.

Company spokesman Brian Ingulsrud has not responded to calls from the Militant.

After Knapper was charged, union supporters set up a public fund to help defray attorney fees, raising more than $2,500 from dozens of locked-out workers and others. “Brad is innocent and all the so-called evidence against him has been compiled by the Company and scabs,” said a website supporters of the defense effort set up to raise money. “Brad needs the solidarity of other Unions and supporters for his defense.”

“As far as I see it, these are trumped-up allegations,” said Paul Woinarowicz, a locked-out worker from Drayton. He recently returned from participating in the six-state “Journey for Justice” that traveled through the Midwest building solidarity together with members of the United Steelworkers who had been locked out by Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. in Findlay, Ohio. “This is an attack on the union. The company is trying to split us up, drain our resources. We are all union brother and sisters, and we need to protect each other.”

With another court date coming up, Knapper said he needs to raise another $2,500 to cover lawyer and court fees. To help defray costs, supporters of Knapper’s defense can write checks payable to “We the Union Local 167G” and mail to Wells Fargo Bank, 730 Center Ave., Moorhead, MN, 56560.
Related articles:
Vale disregarded safety hazard before mine deaths
On the Picket Line
Locked-out workers in UK fight ‘hand-picked’ layoffs  
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