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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

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Let's talk...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lockout starts at American Crystal; why didn't the workers stay in the plants?

Reading "between the lines" this article tells us exactly what is going on in this country and also what troubles the U.S. labor movement.

Article also published in its entirety below my comments---
First of all; this company plans on busting the union, plain and simple. No management brings in this many scabs on such short notice unless they intend to bust the union--- no more union is the intent of the American Crystal management, no matter how "kind" and generous these union leaders think they have been with their previous 3% raises of the past.

American Crystal Sugar has been planning this for a very long time just waiting for the right economic climate which has now been delivered by Obama's Wall Street entourage--- high unemployment makes it easy to find scabs.

The AFL-CIO big-shots like Shar Knutson and Mark Froemke actually believed that the liberal governor, Mark Dayton, was going to prevent these scabs from being brought in. 

Shit, Governor Dayton can't even get the word "scab" through his lips without having to take anti-depressents and hitting the bottle.

Second; why would workers leave plants knowing full well management intended to bring in scabs? This makes no sense at all. 

What kind of dispicable, non-struggle union leaders would set workers up to take this?

Shar Knutson, the President of the AFL-CIO is a big Obama supporter as is her side-kick, Mark Froemke--- I don't see either one of these labor-fakers who built their careers on selling out workers getting on the horn to Obama telling him to put on his "marching shoes" and picking up a baseball bat to stop these scabs because that is just what it is going to take for workers to win this struggle now.

These workers could have peacefully occupied the American Crystal plants; now only resorting to violence can stop these scabs who the company will keep working until the "cows come home."

Shar Knutson and Mark Froemke also are afraid to call for a boycott of American Crystal Sugar which needs to be done--- but, wouldn't you know it, this would be a violation of the law.

Obviously rank-and-file workers are going to have to take matters into their own hands or they will never see the insides of these plants or a pay-check from American Crystal ever again--- unless of course they are willing to go back to work hanging their heads in shame probably with a worse contract than what American Crystal has been so "generous" to have already offered.

I would note that it was Mark Froemke, this worthless, cowardly union "leader" who sits on the National Board of the Obama supporting Communist Party USA  who was registered to vote in Grand Forks, North Dakota who actually had the nerve to nominate the Republican, Collin Peterson, to run as a Democrat for Congress from Minnesota's 7th Congressional District--- anyone seen Collin Peterson walking the picketline carrying a baseball bat urging Obama to join him... forget about Dayton, he is trying to hold his head up after drinking all night wondering if he will have to call in the Minnesota National Guard--- from Iraq.  

No doubt the future will find Shar Knutson and Mark Froemke passing out their "Obama for President" leaflets at the gates of American Crystal Sugar--- to a bunch of scabs.

What an outfit the AFL-CIO has become--- like the mistake of the socialist Minnesota Farmer Labor Party merging with the thoroughly corrupt Democratic Party whose legislative caucus doesn't even have the common human decency to join American Crystal Sugar workers on their "informational" picket lines after receiving all kinds of campaign contributions and campaign help, it now seems that the merger of the left-wing, class struggle CIO with the decrepit, dying and reactionary AFL was one big mistake, too. Both mergers had the same intent, to decapitate the labor movement and strip working people of their power which comes from united, militant action.

Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing,
Midwest Casino Workers Organizing Council

P.S.--- Shar Knutson and Mark Froemke authorized the United Food and Commercial Workers to go ahead and rent the non-union facilities of the Grand Portage Casino/Resort for their "International Labor Conference" even though we have an organizing campaign underway there and both Knutson and Froemke are well aware that the workers employed in this casino are forced to work in an unhealthy, loud, noisy, smoke-filled environment day-in-and-day-out at poverty wages and without any rights under state or federal labor laws--- now we see where their class collaborationist, non-struggle thinking gets the workers whose dues pay their big, fat salaries--- these workers at American Crystal Sugar are receiving just as much help from the Democrats as us casino workers.

What a sad goddamn commentary on the situation with the U.S. labor movement.

Knutson, Froemke and their ilk scab on us last week and this week they have to deal with scabs taking the jobs of their own members. 

Although according to Paul Pugh, the big-shot Canadian Auto Workers leader who has been elected to the Thunderbay City Council claiming to be a labour and human rights activist who has befriended these sleazy bastards like Shar Knutson and Mark Froemke, these scabs really aren't scabs--- they didn't have to pass through picket signs and they weren't handed a leaflet. 

And, oh ya, Paul Pugh isn't crossing the border carrying a baseball bat to stop these scabs--- I guess this big-mouth doesn't care for the American judicial system and our prisons.

See this for more information:

It is truly amazing how what goes around, comes around and kicks you in the ass so fast. Perhaps these rank-and-file locked out workers at American Crystal Sugar will get themselves some legitimate union leaders in the near future. If they do, casino workers will be happy to join their struggle for justice.

And did you notice the "picket signs" Shar Knutson and Mark Froemke had made, no doubt manufactured by John McCarthy's Tony Doom Enterprises: "No Lockout"

What the hell, these signs should have been put up outside the plants by Mark Dayton's campaign workers as the workers were occupying the plants. 



Lockout starts at American Crystal
  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune 
  • Updated: August 1, 2011 - 10:58 AM
The largest U.S. beet sugar producer followed through on locking out 1,300 employees after union workers rejected a contract.

Employees walked down the road with picket signs during the first day of a lock-out Monday outside of the sugar beet plant in Moorhead.

Photo: Leah Millis, Star Tribune

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- At about 7:50 a.m. on a grim rainy Monday, replacement workers -- three big white Ford vans full of them -- rolled through the main gate of the American Crystal Sugar plant here, drawing cold stares and cold comments from union workers holding picket signs.  

The Moorhead-based farmers co-op, the largest U.S. beet sugar producer, had made good on its threat of locking out its 1,300 workers after they resoundlingly rejected a new contract offer on Saturday. The old contract covering five Red River Valley plants, including the one here, expired at midnight.

"It was a hard decision, but we just couldn't let them take this over," said Peter McDougall, a mechanic and a 30 year American Crystal Sugar veteran.

The comment summed up several workers' opinions that the contract they turned down would greatly diminish union strength at the company's benefit, and jack up health insurance costs so much that it would erode wage increases the company has proposed. 

The lockout at one of northwestern Minnesota's largest employers also encompasses the company's sugar mills in Crookston and East Grand Forks, as well as plants in Drayton and Hillsboro, N.D. About 15 to 30 workers at an American Crystal Sugar facility in Chaska are also affected.

Replacement workers at all mills are being provided by Minnetonka-based Strom Engineering, which specializes in such work.

No new negotations have been set up, and the company had termed its previous offer as "final." Still, "We would be open to talking again," said Brian Ingulsrud, American Crystal's vice president for administration.

But he said getting a federal mediator back in place and starting up talks might take one to two weeks, he said. "The ball is in their court," Ingulsrud said. "We gave them a very good contract offer."

Workers saw it differently, with 96 percent of them voting against it. Their beef wasn't about money: The company's five-year contract offer called for a 4 percent raise in the first year; 3 percent in the second; and 2 percent in each of the next three years. Workers would also get a $2,000 signing bonus. Workers on average make $40,000 a year at the plant, $50,000 with overtime.

But the company's contract offer would bring union workers into the company's health care plan for non-union employees, which the union says would more than double out-of-pocket health care costs. Under the old contract, workers paid no premiums; under the one that was rejected, workers would pay $875 annually in premiums for family coverage and $281 for single coverage. Deductibles and co-insurance would then rise siginficantly, too, the union says.

"It's outrageous," said Lois Herchert, a packaging foreperson and 33-year veteran sugar veteran. "There's got to be better insurance than what they offered."

The other big sticking point for union workers is contract language over seniority and contracting out union jobs to non-union employees. For instance, under the old contract, when workers bid on new jobs that entailed promotions, seniority was the key criteria, though they had to be qualifed, too. The contract that was rejected would give the company more say in determining qualifications, with much less reliance on seniority, union workers say.

American Crystal added a clause to its "final offer" to address union fears of contracting out jobs. The company would be prevented from subcontracting work done by union employees that would result in layoffs, Ingulsrud said. "It's as crystal clear as we could possibly make it."

But union workers on the picket line Monday were still suspicous of the company's contracting out intentions. "They have too many wiggle words," said Tony St. Michel, an electrician who's worked at American Crystal for 35 years. "I believe they could contract out my job."

Like other workers, he said he fears that the company, under its propsal, would be able contract out work once leases expire on equipment in its plants.

"This whole contract is a union busting contract," St. Michel said. And the company's lockout threat -- something it's never done before -- "brings everything to a higher level."

Michel noted that until lately, labor relations had been fairly good, and management and the union have worked together successfully to keep in place a tariff system that restricts foreign sugar imports into the United States. And they've worked together -- unsuccessfully -- to fight free trade pacts involving sugar imports from Mexico and Latin America.
"It torques me is that we've stood shoulder to shoulder with them to gets what's best for the farmer and the sugar beet worker and now they do this," he said, echoing other workers on an informational picket line Monday.

Several, too, noted that the lockout comes at a time when business is good for American Crystal Sugar. Wholesale refined U.S. sugar prices during the second quarter were 15 percent higher than a year ago and 35 percent higher than the same time in 2009, federaldata shows.

Ingulsrud acknowledged that "sugar prices are high right now and things look good." But he said that other costs have increased significantly and that sugar prices "will inevitably come back to normal."

Union workers filed in at 11 p.m. Sunday for the night shift as usual, but were soon called to the lunch room. "They gave us a piece of paper and walked us out," said Leslie Dunham, a 39-year American Crystal Sugar veteran who works in packaging.

The paper said something to the effect of "we don't need your services," Dunham said, and by 11:15 he was clocked out. He quickly picked up an informational picket sign protesting the lockout, and with three other union sentries at one of the plant's gates, settled in for the night.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003