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Alan Maki

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

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We need to beat swords into plowshares.

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http://peaceandsocialjustice.blogspot.com/2013/03/a-progressive-program-for-real-change.html


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.


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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Crystal Sugar workers reject contract again



"The lockout began Aug. 1, 2011, after union members resoundingly shot down a contract offer from Crystal Sugar that would have raised wages by 13 percent over five years, but would have also increased health care costs by transferring workers to the company's benefit plan. The union has claimed out-of-pocket expenses would double for many workers."

Comment:

Must be American Crystal Sugar Company workers don't think much of the Obamacare that Richard Trumka and his 50 or so cronies on the AFL-CIO's Executive Council shoved down our throats in order to protect Barack Obama's worthless political butt.

Maybe union leaders should have called for a vote to see how many members support Obamacare.


Question:

Why isn't Obama and the Democratic Party doing anything to support American Crystal Sugar workers?


Question:

Shouldn't union leaders allocate at least as much in resources developing the boycott of American Crystal Sugar as they pumped into all these campaigns to re-elect Obama and the Democrats?


Question:

Why haven't union leaders raised the issue of the need for legislation prohibiting employer lockouts and anti-scabbing legislation?


Question:

Why has their been no explanation from union leaders as to why these plants weren't occupied once it became obvious there was going to be an employer lockout?


Question:

What is the role of left wing organizations and left wing publications in bringing forward plant occupations as an alternative to management lockouts?


Question:

Why didn't Mark Froemke, a leader of the Grain Millers' Union, a Vice-President of the Minnesota AFL-CIO and a member of the Obama supporting Communist Party U.S.A.'s National Committee and District  Organizer of the Minnesota-Dakota District bring forward the need for workers to occupy these plants instead of submitting to an employer lockout?


Suggestion:

Instead of distributing tens of thousands of Obama caps, copies of George Lakoff's two books--- "Don't think of an elephant!" and "The Little Blue Book; The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic;" union leaders should have distributed copies of Gus Halls book, "Working Class U.S.A.; The Power and The Movement" calling specific attention to the sections on "class collaboration."



 


Crystal Sugar workers reject contract again


 Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune Updated: December 2, 2012 - 6:34 AM

For the fourth time, union members rejected the company's contract offer, ensuring the 16-month lockout continues.
 hide

One of the longest work stoppages in recent Minnesota history will continue as locked-out union workers at American Crystal Sugar Saturday rejected essentially the same contract for the fourth time, with 55 percent voting against.

While opposition to the contract has dwindled -- 96 percent voted against it 16 months ago just before the lockout started -- rising economic duress still hasn't deterred a majority of workers. In late June, during the last contract vote, 63 percent voted "no."

Those who rejected the contract again believe they've come too far to quit now in opposing an intransigent company, said John Riskey, president of Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers Local 167G.

"After what they have gone through and the fight they have put up, they want to keep up and continue fighting," he said. "They want the company to come back to the table for real give-and-take negotiating."

The company has barely budged in attempts to negotiate over the past 16 months. "We have already given them our final offer, and we have made it pretty clear it was our final offer," said Brian Ingulsrud, a Crystal Sugar vice president.

In a statement on its website, Crystal Sugar said it has offered workers a "solid and generous package." Crystal said the contract is similar to what it's offering its temporary replacement workers, who are "creating a productive and successful new workforce for our company."

Moorhead-based Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative, is the largest U.S. beet sugar maker, churning out about 13 percent of the nation's refined sugar. It has plants in Crookston, East Grand Forks and Moorhead, as well as in Drayton and Hillsboro, N.D.

At the time of the lockout, Crystal Sugar workers made $40,000 annually on average before overtime. By federal law, locked-out workers would get jobs back at Crystal if they approve the contract.

But the number of workers who would actually return -- and the number voting on the contract -- has steadily fallen. About 520 of the 1,300-member bargaining unit have retired or quit, many taking other jobs. The union declined to say how many workers voted Saturday.

Marc LaPlante, who's worked at Crystal in Crookston since 1972, said he has steadfastly voted "no," but didn't vote Saturday.

He said he told Crystal just before the latest vote was called that he was retiring. "I'm just so fed up with the whole thing." LaPlante said he would have voted "no" again, but didn't vote because he's leaving. "The company has put the knife in people's back from day one."

LaPlante said he was "shocked" that the contract was rejected again, given the growing economic hardship workers are facing. Scott Aubol, a 34-year veteran worker at the Crookston plant, said he, too, was "stunned" by the vote.

Aubol said he had voted "no" on the contract until Saturday, when he voted for it. "I did change this time just because there are so many people who are really hurting," he said. "We're just beat up. ... It's unfightable with the money [the company] has, and their 'take-it-or-leave-it' attitude."

Still, he said there's "no way" he'd cross the picket line and go back to work. "I still support what we're fighting for."

The lockout began Aug. 1, 2011, after union members resoundingly shot down a contract offer from Crystal Sugar that would have raised wages by 13 percent over five years, but would have also increased health care costs by transferring workers to the company's benefit plan. The union has claimed out-of-pocket expenses would double for many workers.

Union members also balked at the "management rights" language in Crystal's contract offer. It would give management more discretion in workplace decisions, whittling away at seniority rights for promotions and possibly leading to contracting out work to non-union employees.

The initial offer before the lockout included a signing bonus of $2,000. The bonus was not included in the second contract vote, held Nov. 1, 2011, though the company tweaked its proposed language regarding contracting out. Ninety percent of workers voted "no."

Sporadic attempts to negotiate a solution went nowhere. In June, with economic stress rising, some workers asked to vote on the same contract that was rejected in November. Again, it was turned down, but by a smaller margin.

Minnesota workers' unemployment benefits began expiring in July and were totally gone by early October, eliminating a cushion of at least $1,000 per month. With the holiday season and winter approaching, some workers last month asked for another vote.



 

American Crystal Sugar workers vote today on contract


 Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune Updated: December 1, 2012 - 6:41 PM


Union workers will decide Saturday to accept a contract offer that would end one of the longest labor stoppages in recent Minnesota history.

Union workers at American Crystal Sugar vote Saturday on whether to accept a contract offer that would end one of the longest labor stoppages in recent Minnesota history.

It's substantially the same contract they've already rejected three times, but the margin of rejection in the last vote in June was considerably lower than in 2011 votes. And the workers -- locked out since Aug. 1, 2011 -- are hurting more than ever as unemployment benefits have expired.

"I'd expect a closer vote," said John Budd, a labor relations expert at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. "Seasonal jobs [for locked-out workers] are harder to come by in the winter, and winter is a harder time to be without income as far as heating bills."

Still, Moorhead-based Crystal Sugar, the nation's largest sugar beet producer, hasn't budged on its offer. "It seems curious to me that Crystal Sugar can't find something to compromise on," Budd said, "something to make the workers feel OK about voting 'yes.'"

Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative, locked out 1,300 union workers at its five Red River Valley plants after 96 percent of workers rejected a contract offer. Replacement workers were brought in, including at plants in Crookston, Moorhead and East Grand Forks.

While the contract would raise wages by a relatively healthy 13 percent over five years, it would entail significant increases in workers' health care costs. Also, it would give management more rights in determining key workplace issues. For instance, seniority -- a basic union tenet -- would lose its importance in worker advancement.

"This is about power -- a shift in power from a partnership to unilateral power on management's part," said Peter Rachleff, a history professor and organized labor expert at Macalester College in St. Paul.

Labor strife had been rare at Crystal Sugar over the past three decades. Indeed, the sugar workers union, Crystal's executives and its farmer-owners worked together in Washington, D.C., to preserve a program that protects the U.S. sugar industry from foreign competition.

Now, the Crystal lockout has become Minnesota's longest work stoppage in decades. In comparison, the bitter strike at Austin-based Hormel Foods in the mid-1980s lasted 10 months.

Three months after the lockout began, members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union voted on a similar Crystal contract offer, but 90 percent of them said "no." As the economic toll mounted, some workers in June asked for a third vote; 63 percent were still against the deal.

Since then, unemployment benefits for Minnesota workers -- a significant economic cushion -- have expired. For many, those benefits provided over $1,000 per month. On average, Crystal Sugar workers make $40,000 before overtime.

By federal law, replacement workers are deemed temporary in a lockout; so union members would go back to work if they approve Crystal's contract offer. Still, a "return-to-work" agreement must be negotiated, and talks over that could get tricky, too.

Many union workers have moved on to other jobs. About 520 of them have notified Crystal Sugar they've retired or quit, up from about 400 in June, said Brian Ingulsrud, a company vice president.

The lockout has hurt the company's bottom line, too. Its cost of sales in the fiscal year ending Aug. 31 was up by $180 million over the previous year, partly due to costs incurred from the lockout, according to Crystal's annual report recently filed with U.S. securities regulators.

The report also showed that Dave Berg, the firm's CEO, got an 11 percent increase in base pay to $654,000 during the fiscal year, which started a month after the lockout began.

But Berg got no short-term cash bonus, whereas he pulled in bonuses of $414,000 and $341,000 in the previous two years. The CEO's cash bonus "ranges from 0 percent [of base salary] for unsatisfactory performance to a maximum of 90 percent for outstanding performance," the report said.

Budd said public relations may have played a part in the lack of a cash bonus for Berg, who made a total of $1.7 million in Crystal's last fiscal year.

"It would further fan the flames," Budd said, "if the CEO was getting an additional bonus while workers are on picket lines losing their unemployment and their houses."

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003




TERMS OF THE OFFER


American Crystal Sugar is offering a 13 percent raise over 5 years, with 4 percent and 3 percent respectively in the first two years. The rest would be divided evenly over the next three years.

Union workers would be transferred to a company health plan. The union says costs out-of-pocket costs will more than double. The company says the health care cost increase is significantly less than the proposed pay increase.

The proposal includes new "management rights" language giving the company more power on workplace governance. This includes the erosion of union seniority rights for promotions and, the union says, an increased ability to contract out work to non-union workers.

Note: The original contract offer workers rejected in July 2011 included a $2,000 signing bonus. That bonus was not included in subsequent offers.


Comments from readers of these stories posted on the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website... one can readily see the union leadership hasn't even prepared the membership to participate in the on-line battle of ideas from a class conscious position:



nordeastguy
Dec. 1, 12
 8:34 PM

Can we now stop reporting on this? The workers have made their choice clear (4 times). Good luck to them.

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davehoug
Dec. 1, 12
 8:42 PM

So how long would a worker have to get paid under a contract they would like to recover the lost wages so far????

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nortcyd
Dec. 1, 12
 8:52 PM

Let's look at the positives of this story...There are 1300 workers that will remained employed with a good wage, excellent benefits, and the choice to earn promotions. Don't forget how much better these willing to earn a decent living will feel this Christmas to have this opportunity.

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kingtutsky
Dec. 1, 12
 8:54 PM

"Those who rejected the contract again believe they've come too far to quit now" Anger is an unpredictable weapon. Ironically, Federal sugar subsidies will keep the host (farmer's cooperative) alive.

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dflleft
Dec. 1, 12
 8:58 PM

WHAT IS THERE LEFT TO SAY?....the union members keep talking about a fight, the fight is over. You lost. there are too many people out there that would love to have your job and benefits. Your employer sets the wages, not you, if you don't like it get another job.

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dflleft
Dec. 1, 12
 9:02 PM

WHAT IS THERE LEFT TO SAY?....the union members keep talking about a fight, the fight is over. You lost. there are too many people out there that would love to have your job and benefits. Your employer sets the wages, not you, if you don't like it get another job.

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dlfriesen
Dec. 1, 12
 9:08 PM

Evidently these guys don't want to work. The Company needs to withdraw their offer and move forward with the employees currently on staff. Any of the strikers who were to return at this point in time would harbor nothing but ill-will and prove to be a cancer to all their co-workers and management. Enough is enough. There is a consequence to every decision.

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edinawater
Dec. 1, 12
 9:12 PM

The Star Tribune has written many articles on this lock-out. I still don't know why the union is voting the way it is. Would it be too much trouble for a reporter to ask a few workers why they vote the way they do? What are the key sticking points in the contract offer?

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zooropa
Dec. 1, 12
 9:19 PM

American free enterprise. You're free to work for the company, or move on. Enough of the entitlement mentality that is bringing this country down.

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marycaldwell
Dec. 1, 12
 9:40 PM

Actually, the fight is not over, maybe it is just beginning. If you wish to make a point about fairness do your really believe that Churchill should be invoked.........I don't think so. The community should show some respect for workers that have been LOCKED OUT. Instead of making union bashing statements, perhaps you might ask yourself exactly what kind of corporate mentality locks workers out. I shall help those workers in any way I can and I hope that the good people in the community will do the same.

DLBabatz
Dec. 1, 12
 9:50 PM

That's it. They're done. It's time for both sides to carry on without the other. The replacement workers are now the permanent workers.

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kennyrogers
Dec. 1, 12
10:08 PM

These Union workers built the company, they must feel they deserve to get paid for it. But obviously, what is not reported and not understood, is that the company wants to take away seniority. Seniority is priceless, never ever give it up, regardless of the cost.

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fwallen
Dec. 1, 12
10:16 PM

Edinawater has nailed the key question. Where are the journalists? Reporting a vote, could be done by a 4th grader. I expect more from the state's newspaper. What are the issues? What are union leaders telling the rank and file? What are strikers hearing on the "grapevine". What are farmers saying?

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svbwannab
Dec. 1, 12
10:23 PM

My guess is that the non-union workers are more efficient and harder-working anyway.

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stared
Dec. 1, 12
10:48 PM

You mean strikers get to claim unemployment benefits?

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ddellwo
Dec. 1, 12
10:53 PM

kennyrogers -- Coming from you, I would have guessed your comment would have been something more like this: "You've got to know when to hold'em, and know when to fold'em!" By my line of thinking, the Union members in this case forgot of those sage words.

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marycaldwell
Dec. 1, 12
11:12 PM

stared, No one is on strike........

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WHIMSEY
Dec. 1, 12
11:15 PM

the voters need to go away. No way could they be surviving unless they are spending all their 401K's or saving or?? It is time to allow the temp's to be the regular workers.

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grinnell4
Dec. 1, 12
11:57 PM

I have mixed feelings on this. I have no love lost for unions whatsoever. On the other hand, I grew up with some of the current farmers who own the co-op. Those I know are rich and have received hefty government subsidies over the years.

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Rossberg
Dec. 2, 12
12:53 AM

"They want the company to come back to the table for real give-and-take negotiating." The flawed assumption here is that they think the company wants these people back. Why would they? They haven't worked there for 16 months so they'd all have to be retrained. They'd be resentful and difficult to work with because they'd feel like they were beaten into submission. They'd be hostile to any remaining replacement workers. No, I think the company and certainly the replacement workers are happy with the way things are. Retirements and moves to other cities and jobs should become more widespread now that unemployment has run out and it shouldn't be too long before there's a move to decertify the union. Once that happens management will be able to pick up those workers they want and this whole thing will be history.



busdriver37
Dec. 2, 12
 2:05 AM

Ah, yes, be noble, you former Crystal union workers. Hold out at all costs... but precisely what are those costs at this point? Oh... wait... costs that ONLY YOU will feel. The plant is still operating per demand, and people are still buying per demand. Your fellow Minnesotans and upper-Midwesterners continue to live, work and operate and feel NO IMPACT of your strike. It's time to stand down down and accept that youd DID NOT WIN this "strike." If you want to work for Crystal, great - work FOR them. Cross the line, go back to work. I won't judge you. If you don't, fine. Hold out, I won't judge you. But please don't ask for additional payouts, union pay, etc.

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aonealpha
Dec. 2, 12
 4:38 AM

This is a processor owned by farmers! I suspect the farmers think they have offered a very fair compensation package to the workers. And they are probably right since they did not have muuch trouble finding 1300 workers to replace the union. Contrast this to Menard's that needs to fly in workers. No wonder unions are losing members in this country (except govt unions of course where they convince enough of us to vote democrat so they can keep increasing THEIR pay).

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Jakein08
Dec. 2, 12
 6:19 AM

zooropa says "American free enterprise. You're free to work for the company, or move on. Enough of the entitlement mentality that is bringing this country down." This is not free enterprise. Crystal Sugar, and the corporate sugar beet farmers in their coo-op, are getting huge sugar subsidies from our tax dollars. You call that free enterprise? Corporate greed is what is bringing this country down. I say stop all subsidies of any kind. If corporations want to talk about free enterprise then let's make it so. Stop the corporate welfare!

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probsolver
Dec. 2, 12
 6:38 AM

Seniority is priceless, never ever give it up, regardless of the cost. ---- if you're more productive than the guy/ gal next to you, that's the real seniority

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charles3
Dec. 2, 12
 6:51 AM

I hope they enjoy their new jobs, what ever they are. Someone yesterday commented that these owners were doing so much better than the Hostess owners. These are farmers. They don't/won't take no cr_p from anyone. Good for them.

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localguy
Dec. 2, 12
 6:54 AM

"My guess is that the non-union workers are more efficient and harder-working anyway." . . . . A story by the same reporter published in this paper on December 1 said that the company had lost $180 million because the of the lock out. That's a crucial fact that was in this story when it was first posted, but was taken out after I commented on it.

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juststayhome
Dec. 2, 12
 6:57 AM

Pretty obvious these people don't really want to work.

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juststayhome
Dec. 2, 12
 7:00 AM

"union workers built the company?" lol...priceless!

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localguy
Dec. 2, 12
 7:23 AM

"These are farmers. They don't/won't take no cr_p from anyone." . . . . No, but they certainly take a lot of government subsidies. These should be on the top of the list of cuts when the Feds try to balance the budget.

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nessmess
Dec. 2, 12
 7:42 AM

What's "fair" about this, is you have the "choice" to either accept the companies offer or "MOVE-ON" (compared to slavery)..... YOU DON'T have the right to demand a job and then set your own wages (if you want that, then start your own business).... That's the beauty of America, you can pick and choose your destiny...


seafoamrex1
Dec. 2, 12
 7:46 AM

In this day and age your going to complain and walk away from a $40,000 a year job, really?

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justmeagain
Dec. 2, 12
 8:16 AM

Ahhhhh too bad the company wants the workers to pay a little more for health insurance and the workers want more money....many Minnesotans haven't gotten a raise in years, have had our benefits costs significantly increased or have lost our jobs. The company should take the example of Wonder Bread / Hostess. 16 months obviously the workers don't need their jobs and the company doesn't need them ...permanently close the doors and let another company buy the company. Idiots..no sympathy from the average working Minnesotan for stupid demands.

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vampress_me
Dec. 2, 12
 8:24 AM

Thank you to the union workers for voting no on the contract. This way the replacement workers don't lose their jobs that they have been working hard at for over a year right before Christmas.

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rickbmn
Dec. 2, 12
 8:34 AM

I hope the striking workers will be invited to the homes of the union leaders for Christmas. And I hope you're learning new skills. Time is now for companies to stand up to the union bullies. And to those railing against subsidies: those are part of the farm bill. I would LOVE to see ALL, repeat, ALL, of those subsidies gone. Not just the ones to Crystal sugar.

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llllaney
Dec. 2, 12
 8:38 AM

From what I understand. Do to the length of the ordeal. Some workers can not continue to pay their union dues, because of financial reasons. Therefore are not able to participate in the voting process.

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knapsi
Dec. 2, 12
 8:56 AM

i wonder why the union bosses will not disclose the last vote totals.i have tried to find out how long the union workers can keep voting to not go back to work.(but can't)is there some kind of time limit(#of yrs.etc.)or limit to the #of votes taken?

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timandtia
Dec. 2, 12
 8:56 AM

Can't believe that the union members did not accept this package. I guess that its members have a lot of money to live on during the strike.

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mspreader1
Dec. 2, 12
 9:46 AM

@marycaldwell- what kind of company locks workers out??? Maybe one that understands they are offering a fair wage and doesn't want to deal with those who don't understand this concept and will be a detriment to the moral going forward. Everyone makes choices, the union made its choice to reject a reasonable offer in today's economic climate...they rejected...they are the ones playing hardball considering there seems to be plenty of others who are willing to do the work. Loyalty goes both ways, and as we've recently seen...the benefits of a few should not impair the viability of an organization...period. That is the epitome of greed.

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jbpaper
Dec. 2, 12
10:08 AM

I wonder how many of those that voted "no" have found another job, have a spouse that can support them or are planning on retirement. Did their vote hurt those that need/want to go back to work?

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stearns1985
Dec. 2, 12
10:12 AM

Simply AMAZING! Greed and anger from the Union Reps and employees is a "cancer", counter-productive, and destroyong the lives of those 40+% that wanted to go back to work. You have NO cards left to play! You lost! Crystal's short-term losses and expenses have dwindled, as they now have a fully trained, productive new work force! Workers who WANT to work for the good wage & benefits offered by the company! Congratulations to THEM, as they all get to keep there jobs and have a very Merry Christmas and happy 2013!!



justthinking
Dec. 2, 12
10:14 AM

As a city person with no dog in this fight I heard a rumor a month ago that the ballots are tallied in private by union bosses and shredded and destroyed so no recount is possible. Can anyone verify this? Is so please somment and state the basis for your knowledge. The rumor - a trusted source - also stated he knew many local workers and not one of them knew anyone who voted to reject the contract a month ago. Is voter fraud involved?

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kivirl4
Dec. 2, 12
10:19 AM

its just really hard to feel sorry for people like this. I am not always pro management, but the current market appears to allow them to continue on fine the way they are. (Although they could have maybe made some small token gesture to give the union face saving). But I guess why? When so many people out of work, just really hard to figure out this mentality. The strikers must have enough income from elsewhere.

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stearns1985
Dec. 2, 12
10:31 AM

Let's see, no unemployment benefits left. Benefits they NEVER should have been allowed to draw as they CHOSE NOT TO WORK for the above market wage & benefits offered them. Thousands of $$$ of wages lost that they'll never make up. And they STILL refuse to work for $40,000+/year??? I'm sure that is also a reflection of their "entitled" work ethic (or lack thereof)! They've learned NOTHING from Hostess. And 90% of the public has NO SYMPATHY for them, no matter what your political affiliation. You chose not to work! MANY replacement workers are VERY greatful!! Think of this as a brand new job offer! 1300 positions, with 5,000 willing and qualified applicants ina very difficult economy. You KNOW the wage & benefit package! You are offered the job, but turn it down (with NOTHING to fall back on)! Really? Do you really think they're gonna simply give you what YOU want, not what the job offers??? Not with 3,700 others praying the chance to take that position!! Shame on you! But it's great for Crystal, as they have a happy, more productive work force. And great for the consumer, as that will be reflected in product price!!! Isn't America great!!!

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mnnimrod
Dec. 2, 12
11:13 AM

$2000 signing bonus to existing workers plus 13% raise over 5 years. Todays business environment to receive a 5% bonus just to agree to stay on and then get defined raise per year is something to bank on. None of this includes the many hours of overtime they work so these are good paying jobs in rural communities. If it wasn't for the unemployment benefits they did not deserve this would have been done over a year ago. Mn unemployment plus the extended benefits they received because of Obama's recession just made it easier for them. There are 1300 new workers who were looking for work so in the end it all works out. Motivated workers as opposed to angry union workers looking to screw the company that puts the bread on their table. Go on strike to hurt the company,, lose your job.

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LennyofMN
Dec. 2, 12
11:15 AM

If I was unemployed, I'd head up there and apply. Sounds like a pretty good job, to me.

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guitarmn
Dec. 2, 12
11:25 AM

""Seniority is priceless, never ever give it up, regardless of the cost. ---- if you're more productive than the guy/ gal next to you, that's the real seniority"""========== Taking this to the logical conclusion that you've drawn , there are millions of young workers in Asia that have more seniority than you.

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marycaldwell
Dec. 2, 12
11:26 AM

Not sure why, but reading all of these comments, I am reminded of that old saying......What the farmer doesn't know, he doesn't eat.

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cavell
Dec. 2, 12
11:27 AM

Pride and principal is all that is left. A former company I worked at voted down a contract over 1% wage issue. REALLY. Company shutdown 1 yr later and moved jobs out of state. All the workers with 20yrs seniority got to look for new jobs paying less.

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marycaldwell
Dec. 2, 12
11:34 AM

mspreaderl, How can you have a moral going forward, when you use an immoral act to achieve your goal. Truth comes before authority, because without truth there is no authority.

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ranger78
Dec. 2, 12
12:55 PM

One union guy says, we've come too far with this. Really? Have you calculated the raise necessary at this point to recoup the wages lost since the walk out? You'll never come close to what you've lost the rest of your life. But you keep holding out. You're going to show the company. Yup, Forrest Gump was right. Stupid is, what stupid does.


mankato58
Dec. 2, 12
 1:13 PM

It is long past time to quit calling this a lock-out! These employees rejected the terms of the contract and walked. The only reason they are not allowed in the plant, "locked out," is because they are not under contract and thus not employees anymore. P.S. Many of you will note that I am a fill in worker. I thank you again for giving me the opportunity to earn extra dollars with the flexible hours offered. The union's lack of foresight has been a financial lifesaver for our family. Maybe some day you will wise up and go back to work, but until then I thank you, my family thanks you, and my banker thanks you!

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idigbroads
Dec. 2, 12
 1:41 PM

It is refreshing yet confusing to see so many posts and thumbs up in favor of the company. Such a liberal paper and generally readership that I am surprised. Unions have outlived there usefulness. When they were first organized they served a purpose. Now with OSHA and labor laws why do we need them? To cost all of these workers the best job in the area? To kill off twinkies? Get rid of all the unions and we will be better off.

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juststayhome
Dec. 2, 12
 2:03 PM

Do the people who risk all the capital and work 100 hours a week with no guarantee of so much as a dime in pay to start a business have any rights in your world, Mary?

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juststayhome
Dec. 2, 12
 2:04 PM

Do the people who risk all the capital and work 100 hours a week with no guarantee of so much as a dime in pay to start a business have any rights in your world, Mary?

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chlyn001
Dec. 2, 12
 2:05 PM

Where did all these union haters come from I wonder. Unions are responsible for so many good things, like 40 hour weeks, fair wages for workers and safe working conditions. I guess the negative ones here want to go backward to when companies could rule with an iron fist, dictate terms and starve everyone out. This is not how capitalism is supposed to work. I also wonder how it feels for management to be making 10 or more times what the workers are making when it is you and me as taxpayers who are subsidizing EVERYONE associated with the sugar factories. I propose a community viewing of Jimmy Stewart's movie, "It's A Wonderful Life" so people can see how they should treat workers and others in the community. You all act like a bunch of greedy bankers. Merry Christmas to all, including those who have hardened their hearts.

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Anondson
Dec. 2, 12
 2:21 PM

Can we end the price- and wage-distorting sugar subsidies from the government now? Put the land to better use according to what the market asks for!

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mankato58
Dec. 2, 12
 3:08 PM

AnondsonDec. 2, 12 2:21 PM Can we end the price- and wage-distorting sugar subsidies from the government now? Put the land to better use according to what the market asks for!__________With out the subsidies these jobs would have gone away long ago. It is these jobs that the free market will not allow. I agree there are problems when we subsidize industry, but those subsidies keep jobs on U.S. soil. Take the government money away, the sugar plants will close, and the farmers will just drop beets out of their crop rotations.

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fwallen
Dec. 2, 12
 3:19 PM

I just wish public agencies had the------- to act like the sugar company. While just sbout everyone ( small business owners, employees, investors) has taken a haircut, public employees threaten strikes and the public entities capitulate.

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russ999
Dec. 2, 12
 4:01 PM

hedge funds destroy another company and steal another pension fund and the right-wing zombies cheer on the race to the bottom.

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Anondson
Dec. 2, 12
 4:06 PM

"Take the government money away, the sugar plants will close, and the farmers will just drop beets out of their crop rotations." Take taxpayer money away, sugar plants close, farmers will have to plant crops that are profitable, and new plants will and jobs will arrive for the new production. Not sure what is so precious about these sugar plants that we need those jobs here in the US . . . manufacturing and tech are one thing, but this is SUGAR. One of the most unhealthy food substances around and overconsumption of it is a likely contributor of obesity, diabetes, metabolic derangement, inflammation, etc. Why are we subsidizing this on one end just to explode health costs 100x on the other? These jobs are not worth cheap sugar.


charles3
Dec. 2, 12
 4:32 PM

This isn't a "lockout". It's a "I really don't want to work anyway-out". Enjoy your new jobs, or the thrill of unemployment. The new workers are very pleased with your stupidity.

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mnvet09
Dec. 2, 12
 4:37 PM

Good luck to them, cut off their unemployment and any assistance they might recieve. They choose, multiple times, not to return to work. Good luck at future employment, I hear Walmart is looking for greeters for the Christmas season.

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mankato58
Dec. 2, 12
 4:40 PM

AnondsonDec. 2, 12 4:06 PM "Take the government money away, the sugar plants will close, and the farmers will just drop beets out of their crop rotations." Take taxpayer money away, sugar plants close, farmers will have to plant crops that are profitable, and new plants will and jobs will arrive for the new production. Not sure what is so precious about these sugar plants that we need those jobs here in the US . . . manufacturing and tech are one thing, but this is SUGAR. One of the most unhealthy food substances around and overconsumption of it is a likely contributor of obesity, diabetes, metabolic derangement, inflammation, etc. Why are we subsidizing this on one end just to explode health costs 100x on the other? These jobs are not worth cheap sugar.___________Without subsidies these plants will close because domestic sugar can not compete with cheap sugar from overseas. The farmers will plant corn, soybeans and small grain. These crops do not demand near the work force as sugar - unless you are going for ethanol, but ethanol is on its way out at this time due to the demand to end subsidies. 430, 000 acres of beets this year would translate to 143,000 each of corn, soybeans and wheat. The existing infrastructure of handling commodities would absorb these yields with minimal increased labor once a little expansion of facilities takes place - Most would probably be handled with increased on farm storage as has handled the recent improvements in yields.

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mnvet09
Dec. 2, 12
 4:40 PM

chlyn001, You want Christmas spirit go ask the government for it. I'm taxed enough, taking home less money, and am tired of people complaining that they want more and they "deserve" it or they "earned" it for some reason. You want charity now, go ask the government, they have most of my pay check, maybe they can cut you another check.




My blog post...



What a botched union strategy on the part of the leaders of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International union and the state a national AFL-CIO:

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-12-01/locked-out-crystal-sug


Here is one thing I find really interesting... the leaders of the AFL-CIO which include the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International union told the rest of us how great Obamacare will be for us but they aren't willing to accept the terms of Obamacare for their own members.

This is from the Associated Press today:

"Contract opponents say the sugar beet processor's five-year contract offer would cut health care benefits and weaken job security and seniority protections..."

No one should find it strange that the betrayal of the AFL-CIO's executive council on health care in undermining the movement for single-payer universal health care in order to protect Barack Obama's worthless political butt should be anything other than a betrayal of the 1,300 American Crystal Worker Company's workers, too.

This is where class collaboration leads--- first we get union leaders like Richard Trumka supporting AIPAC and the Israeli killing machine, then we get Trumka and his 50 or so cronies on the AFL-CIO Executive Council supporting Wall Street's Barack Obama, then we get these same union leaders ordering American Crystal Sugar workers to leave the plants as management orders instead of occupying the plants to prevent a lockout; then these union leaders tell workers they should re-elect Obama will solve their problems and now these same union leaders proclaim a "boycott" with no support for the boycott except press conferences.

Why aren't the leaders comprising the AFL-CIO Executive Council putting the same effort into organizing an American Crystal Sugar Company boycott that they put into re-electing Barack Obama who brought us Obamacare and now they won't accept this same Obamacare for their own members?

Kind of like these same 50-plus "leaders" sitting on the AFL-CIO Executive Council headed up by Richard Trumka are willing to accept such miserly poverty minimum wage for tens of millions of non-union members without so much as consulting the workers who are then saddled with this poverty minimum wage.

Class collaboration paves the road straight to hell for the working class and this American Crystal Sugar Company lockout should teach every worker in this country this lesson.

AP News

Crystal Sugar workers reject contract 4th time



FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Their ranks thinned by a 16-month lockout, American Crystal Sugar Co. workers on Saturday rejected a contract for the fourth time.

Contract opponents say the sugar beet processor's five-year contract offer would cut health care benefits and weaken job security and seniority protections. The company says the offer would raise worker pay by 17 percent over five years when a $2,000 signing bonus is taken into account.

Leaders of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International union said in a news release that the workers voted 55 percent to reject management's contract offer.

"By now it should be clear that (company CEO) Dave Berg and Crystal Sugar's management team has no interest in ending a fiscally irresponsible lockout that has been disastrous to farm shareholders, put the federal sugar program in jeopardy, and hurt countless families in the Red River Valley," said John Riskey, the head of a union local that represents employees at three American Crystal factories.

"It's time for shareholders to reclaim their company and send management back to the table for real give-and-take negotiations," he said in the release.

He told The Associated Press later on the phone Saturday that union leaders will be following up with workers on how to deal with the contract issues from this point. He said no plans have been made for another meeting.

Company officials said in a statement Saturday after learning about the workers' vote that the package is "solid and generous" and "similar to what we are offering our current employees."

"We're finding the pay and benefits included in it are attracting high quality area workers who are now creating a productive and successful new workforce for our Company," the statement said.

"The Company continues to move forward and focus on running our business, processing beets and delivering sugar to our customers."

The lockout began in Aug. 1, 2011, and affected about 1,300 workers at plants in Drayton and Hillsboro, N.D., and Minnesota factories in Moorhead, Crookston and East Grand Forks. More than 500 of those workers have since left, said Brian Ingulsrud, an American Crystal vice president.

The company has used replacement workers to continue operating the plants.

Moorhead, Minn.-based American Crystal is a cooperative owned by about 2,800 sugar beet growers. It is the nation's largest sugar beet processor, selling 90 percent of its production to industrial customers, including candy makers, bakeries and breakfast cereal makers.

The lockout began after 96 percent of the workers voting on the company's contract proposal rejected the offer on July 31, 2011. In subsequent ballots, 90 percent of the voting workers turned down the proposal in November 2011, and 63 percent rejected it in June.

In October, the AFL-CIO called for a boycott of Crystal's products. Some of the company's sugar is sold in grocery stores under Crystal's own label. It is sold as "Market Pantry" sugar in Target Corp. stores in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.


From my FaceBook post:


This article presents many sides and views on the American Crystal Sugar Company's lockout of 1,300 workers here in the Red River Valley which includes plants and workers in Minnesota and North Dakota.

Many views and issues except fo
r one important view that was advocated by a group of rank-and-file workers three months before the lockout took place after American Crystal Sugar Company's management stated in no uncertain terms that if their "final offer" was not accepted there would be a lockout.

The view never mentioned in this article or any other article including in the left wing press (as dysfunctional as most of the left wing press is mired in class collaboration and support for the Wall Street imperialist Obama) is that workers should have stayed put and refused to leave these plants as both management and the union "leaders" demanded of them. These plants should have been occupied.

The AFL-CIO has "called for" a boycott Richard Trumka never intended to allocate the required resources to organize in a show of "militancy" when united militancy should have taken place as direct action in the workplace by workers occupying these plants.

I find it very interesting the University Professor Peter Rachleff always manages to evade discussing worker initiatives prior to workers suffering major setbacks then he brings forward his "analysis" which always leaves out what the correct course of action should have been. I guess this helps a university professor keep his very lucrative, high-paying job.

Anyways, here is the Forum article that, for a Republican/big-agribusiness rag, isn't all that bad--- far better than what I have read from the Obama supporting union papers and left wing Obama supporting newspapers:

http://www.inforum.com/event/article/id/381951/

Rank-and-file workers at this point would be foolish if they vote not to accept this "final offer" because, lacking their own initiatives that their union leadership will never take, they are doomed.

This defeat for working people should be studied very closely because employers with the support from both Democrats and Republicans who definitely will not be bringing anti-scab legislation to the table any more than Barack Obama can be expected to "put on his marching shoes."

in fact, the only reason Richard Trumka even voiced support for an American Crystal Sugar boycott was because so many workers across the Midwest were about to tell the Democrats to take a hike. We have seen Trumka never intended to organize any kind of boycott; he used talk of a boycott to get fed up union members involved in campaigning for Obama and the Democrats under the guise that "once Obama is re-elected we will get down to organizing a boycott of American Crystal Sugar Company." All talk; no action.



 Published November 30, 2012, 11:30 PM

http://www.inforum.com/event/article/id/381951/

Union's vote today could end American Crystal lockout

‘No’ vote means continuation of 16-month lockout, hardships
MOORHEAD – Locked-out American Crystal Sugar workers have another chance to say “yes” or “no” to a contract today, but they are again facing a choice they rejected more than a year ago. By: Christopher Bjorke, Forum Communications, INFORUM



MOORHEAD - Locked-out American Crystal Sugar workers have another chance to say "yes" or "no" to a contract Saturday but they are again facing a choice they rejected more than a year ago.
A yes vote means a contract that is mostly unchanged from what they have already rejected and that could lessen their power as a union.

A no vote means a continuation of the 16-month lockout and its financial hardships.

“They’re in a real tough position,” said Bruce Byars, an associate professor in UND’s College of Business and Public Administration.

The Bakery Workers union members plan to vote today for the fourth time on the contract they rejected in July 2011 and in two later votes. Results of the vote - which will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Fargo-Moorhead - are expected to be disclosed this evening, a union official said Friday.
There has been little changed in the two sides of the stalemate since the last vote.

Byars said the company’s contract proposal “effectively ends the union’s security.” But with a second sugar beet harvest now complete and no indication that management would change its position, the union lacks new leverage to apply to lockout.

“If there’s a no vote, we’re pretty much going to stay where we’re at,” he said. “At this point, American Crystal Sugar would seem to have no reason to end the lockout.”

Peter Rachleff, a history professor and labor researcher at Macalester College in St. Paul, said the management’s contract was asking the workers to give management more power over workers’ job security without checks on how they could use it.

“There is no employment security in the new contract,” he said. “Would you hand management a loaded gun and trust them not to use it?”

John Riskey, head of Local 167G representing employees at Crystal factories in East Grand Forks, Moorhead and Drayton, N.D., said workers would be voting on the contract as well as a draft return-to-work agreement if the contract is accepted.

Riskey did not want to discuss the implications of the new vote or negotiations leading up to it, saying he just wanted voters to evaluate the offer themselves.

“All we can do is explain what we have to the best of our ability and let them decide from there,” he said.

The union had about 1,300 members when the lockout began. Riskey said he did not know how many would vote this time. When workers voted in June, union leaders said 82 percent of members participated.

“It depends on how many members show up,” Riskey said, noting that the union had lost members to retirement and other employment.

The percentage of union members rejecting Crystal's offer has been shrinking. They've voted three times. Ninety-six percent rejected it in July 2011. Three months later, it was 90 percent against. After waiting about eight months before holding another vote, 63 percent of union voters were opposed to the deal in the most recent vote in June.

In advance of the vote, the union has been emphasizing the grower-owned cooperative’s financial performance since the lockout began. A statement the union distributed this week focused on a 30 percent decrease in net proceeds disclosed in Crystal’s latest financial statement and a $14 per ton decrease in payments to growers.

The union also ran ads in Friday’s Herald and Forum newspapers with statistics unfavorable to the company.

“Shareholders: This is fiscally irresponsible. End the lockout,” the ad said.

Crystal Vice President for Administration Brian Ingulsrud said the company had record profits in 2011 and though recent profits were lower, “Last year was still a very good year for us.”

Ingulsrud said the company’s expenses have been higher because it is still paying expenses for out-of-state replacement workers who make up 25 percent of their workforce now.

Byars said in light of American Crystal’s apparent willingness to continue the lockout, the union workers had few options other than to emphasize the company’s financial performance in hope that pressure from grower-owners or the public would sway management.

“They’re already locked out so they can’t withhold labor,” he said. “They’ve tried just about everything they can do.”

With financial concerns mounting on workers they are more likely to take permanent jobs or otherwise leave the union, threatening its membership.

“Usually after about a year it kind of puts workers in a position where they’re no longer secure to the union,” Byars said. “It depends on, financially, how long they can sustain it.”

Rachleff said the union needed stronger financial support from other unions, such as the AFL-CIO, which is supporting a boycott of American Crystal products.

“It’s more than just putting out a press release,” he said.

Allan Cull, who is locked out from the Drayton factory and is also a former shareholder, said he saw no reason to vote for the contract.

“I voted no three times already, and with no changes again why would I vote yes the fourth time?” he wrote in an email. “You would think (management) would start to negotiate. At some point the farmers will have to wake up a put a stop to this. But it may be too late already as they have lost so many good people.”

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Christopher Bjorke writes for the Grand Forks Herald