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, president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, Local 176, placed the blame for the continued 16-month lockout on the company’s management, and called for a return to contract negotiations.
“By now it should be clear that Dave Berg and Crystal Sugar’s management team has no interest in ending a fiscally irresponsible lockout,” Riskey said on Saturday night. “It’s time for shareholders to reclaim their company and send management back to the table for real give-and-take negotiations.”
Since the 1,300 workers were locked out on Aug. 1, 2011, the union has voted on essentially the same offer four times, with the percentage of workers voting “no” shrinking each time.
Ninety-six percent rejected the offer in July 2011, 90 percent rejected it three months later and 63 percent voted no in June.
Riskey declined to specify what percentage of union workers participated in Saturday’s vote. In June, 82 percent of workers voted on the offer.
American Crystal representatives have said the contract is their “final offer,” and that the contract would raise worker pay by 17 percent over five years.
However, union leaders say the contract would “dismantle union workers’ health coverage,” and also compromises safety and product quality with a disregard for the value of union workers.
Note: These first two links are from FCC (Forum Communications Company) -owned newspapers, which means that not only will you be required to log in before you can read them on the papers’ websites, but also that access to the full articles will be snatched away and put behind a paywall a mere 7 days after publication. In other words: Read fast, folks.
In a statement released following the vote, the Minnesota AFL-CIO said:
“By now it should be clear that Dave Berg & Crystal Sugar’s management team has no interest in ending a fiscally irresponsible lockout that has been disastrous to farmer shareholders, put the federal sugar program in jeopardy, and hurt countless families in the Red River Valley,” said BCTGM Local 167G President John Riskey. “It’s time for shareholders to reclaim their company & send management back to the table for real give-and-take negotiations.”
Since the Crystal Sugar Lockout began:
· Profits have fallen. Net proceeds fell more than 30% in fiscal 2012 to $555 million, compared to $811 million for the fiscal year that ended August 31, 2011. The amount received by growers per ton of beets fell more than $14 to $58.67. In contrast, farmers at Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative are projected to receive $74.05 per ton in 2012. Western Sugar expects $82.70 per ton, and Michigan Sugar expects $87.74 per ton.
· Production is down. Warehouses are full of unsalable remelt. Production of molasses – a less valuable product compared to sugar – grew 124% due to storage problems and production delays. Tons of products produced and sold declined more than 15% in fiscal 2012, to the lowest level in a decade.
· Debt continues to rise. Short-term debt increased to $110 million at the end of August 2012, a 66% increase from the $66.2 million in debt at the end of fiscal 2011, and a 2100% increase from $5 million in debt at the end of fiscal 2010. American Crystal had its lender increase its line of credit by $60 million.
In October, the AFL-CIO called for a nationwide consumer boycott of American Crystal Sugar products. With Crystal’s refusal to end the lockout, the boycott will continue.
Added Riskey, “BCTGM members thank all who have continued to support our stand for justice and dignity and who have helped our families survive these hard times.”
American Crystal Sugar has processing plants in East Grand Forks, Crookston, and Moorhead, Minn.; Hillsboro and Drayton, N.D.; and packaging and transportation sites in Chaska, Minn. and Mason City, Iowa. Workers at these facilities are represented by BCTGM Locals 167G (Grand Forks, N.D.), 265G (Chaska), 267G (Crookston), 269G (Mason City) and 372G (Hillsboro, N.D.)
Also, too: a couple of links from the Strib: