Latest round of negotiations between union, American Crystal Sugar fall short of agreement
It appears that the the latest round of negotiations between American Crystal Sugar and roughly 1,300 locked-out union workers have not produced an agreement.
The company and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union resumed negotiations on Monday, but a statement from a company official indicates that talks broke down at some point on Tuesday. The company is now offering the workers a revised final contract, and has given the workers until 11 p.m. on Nov. 1 to accept the offer or continue to be locked out.
Workers have been locked out of plants in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa since Aug. 1.
The statement issued Tuesday by Brian Ingulsrud, vice president of administration for ACS, said, in part, that the company began this week’s negotiations with a high expectation of resolution.
“Despite public comments by the union regarding significant movement, their offer failed to adequately address the issues identified by both parities as being the keys to reaching an agreement,” Insulsrud said. “Their new offer had no change in position whatsoever regarding the issue of subcontracting and job security. In the area of health care they offered very minor changes, but continued their demands for free health care insurance. … The company offered to revise the subcontracting language to guarantee that no employee or position will be eliminated due to subcontracting. The company also offered to delay by a year implementation of the transition to the management health care plan.”
John Riskey, Grand Forks, N.D. BCTGM Local 167G president, issued his own statement indicating that the company is proposing only minor changes to a contract that workers have already refused.
“Company executives seem committed to continuing a lockout that is tearing the community apart, putting hardship on 1,300 families and costing a farmer-owned cooperative an unsustainable amount of money,” he said.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Minnesota farmers have harvested 95 percent of their sugar beet crops. Sugar beet producers in North Dakota are also nearing completion.
An action alert from the AFL-CIO said that the company was attempting “to break the employees’ union” and is “risking this year’s harvest and the stability of local communities by sacrificing these good jobs to sweeten its corporate profits.”
To: American Crystal Sugar CEO Dave Berg
Sugar workers have always stood shoulder to shoulder with American Crystal Sugar and growers to protect and advance the sugar industry. They worked hard for the sugar program, Farm Bill, and stood up against the North American Free Trade Agreement and many other unfair trade agreements that hurt the sugar beet industry.
Together, the workers, company, and farmers have built the local economy, supported families, and helped communities flourish.
We respectfully urge you to reconsider your take-back plans and let your union workers stay on the job.
Shar Knutson, president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, believes the lockout at ACS is placing at risk the entire U.S. sugar program that places a limit on how much sugar can be imported.
“An agricultural bill backed by Democratic Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Republican Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana and John Thune of South Dakota would eliminate the sugar program entirely and is gaining serious momentum in Congress,” said Knutson.
Previously, he indicated, such plans to eliminate the sugar program have been quashed by a coalition of organized labor and industry officials.
“Labor-friendly members of Congress without sugar beet farms in their districts or states supported the program in previous years because of the once-positive labor relations at companies such as American Crystal,” Knutson said.
“But with American Crystal’s recent treatment of union workers, it’s going to be extremely difficult for organized labor to get behind the sugar program once again. Labor-friendly members of Congress from non-sugar producing areas also will have a hard time supporting an industry that is treating workers as poorly as American Crystal is right now.”
The lockout affects workers at facilities in Moorhead, East Grand Forks, Crookston, and Chaska, Minn.; Hillsboro and Drayton, N.D.; and Mason City. American Crystal Sugar is a cooperative that provides 38 percent of the nation’s sugar from sugar beets and 15 percent of all sugar production.