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Legislators call on American Crystal Sugar to resume negotiations

One day after 90 percent of union workers rejected the most recent contract offer by American Crystal Sugar, members of the region’s congressional delegations are calling for both parties to return to the bargaining table. About 1,300 union workers have been locked out of their jobs by American Crystal Sugar since Aug. 1. Since the lockout started, the union and company have only met twice, both times at the urging of a federal mediator. Following the rejection of Monday’s offer, there are no plans to meet again.

Sen. Al Franken said “it’s imperative that both sides continue to work to come to an agreement that will end this lockout and get workers back on the job,” pointing out that all sides play a role in the sugar industry’s success.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Collin Peterson released a joint statement highlighting the impact of the lockout on communities across the Red River Valley: “We continue to urge both Crystal Sugar management and workers to come together at the negotiating table to work out an agreement that allows workers to return to their jobs as soon as possible. American Crystal and these jobs are very important to the region.”

Locked out workers in Minnesota are receiving unemployment benefits, but those who live in North Dakota are denied them under state law. Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota said in a statement that the “lock-out is taking a serious toll on families in North Dakota and Minnesota and the economic and social impact can be felt up and down the Red River Valley.”

In an interview with the Grand Forks Herald, Conrad admitted that the dispute could harm the chances of a farm bill. Franken has warned in the past that American Crystal Sugar’s tactics of locking out workers could alienate pro-worker members of Congress who have previously supported protections for the sugar industry.

Conrad told the Grand Forks Herald that the “company needs to think long and hard about the consequences, about the implications of their strategy.”

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