Crystal Sugar Refuses to Negotiate as Lockout Approaches Six-Month Mark

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Crystal Sugar Refuses to Negotiate as Lockout Approaches Six-Month Mark

Workers Say Company’s Actions Could Endanger the Sugar Program


East Grand Forks, MN—Today members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) met with a federal mediator and representatives of American Crystal Sugar Company in a formal negotiation session. Once again workers came to the session hoping to open a constructive dialog with the company on how to end the lockout and get union members back to work under a fair contract. And once again the company was unwilling to consider any of the workers’ proposals.


“We are disappointed, but no longer surprised, at the company’s refusal to negotiate,” said Dan Kressin, a member of the union bargaining committee and 8-year employee of the Crookston, MN factory. “We made significant proposals that we believe address their issues. They did not bring a single new proposal to the table.”


Workers say management’s decision to lock them out and refusal to engage in constructive bargaining are harming the Crystal Sugar brand and endangering the sugar provisions in the Farm Bill.


“There is clear evidence that replacement workers are not producing the same amount or the same quality product that we have produced in the past,” said Ross Perrin, who has worked at the Moorhead, MN factory for 31 years. Locked out workers have witnessed greater-than-normal amounts of non-saleable sugar, or re-melt, piled up outside warehouses in Grand Forks and Hillsboro. Over production of re-melt strongly suggests that replacement workers are not processing beets properly or efficiently. “How long before customers begin to pull their business if quality continues to suffer?” asked Perrin.


Workers say they want the company to end the lockout and reach a fair contract that is good for workers, the company, and their communities. Until then, they say they will take their message to customers, who need to know that the quality of Crystal Sugar is suffering because of the lockout. In addition, workers will continue to communicate with members of Congress about Crystal Sugar’s attempts to gut good middle-class jobs in the Red River Valley.


“We think that urban legislators whose votes will be necessary to pass the sugar program and the Farm Bill should know that Crystal Sugar is engaging in anti-worker tactics that undermine labor standards in an industry that, until now, has provided good middle-class jobs to thousands of workers,” said Roger Delage, president of BCTGM Local 267G. “Will members of Congress who support labor want to support a program that props up companies willing to undermine workers’ rights in an effort to line executives’ pockets?”


Pressure on legislators to oppose the sugar program has increased lately. Republican presidential contenders Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich both spoke publicly against the program during a debate in Florida last week. And there are at least four bills currently before Congress that would end the sugar program. In the past, workers and management have joined forces to advocate for the program with members of Congress. That traditional cooperation has dissolved in the wake of the lockout, which began almost six months ago.

Toy Drives for Kids adds Holiday cheer to children of locked out workers

We want to thank all of the groups who have provided gifts for our children this holiday season. From Christmas for Crystal Kids to the Saint Paul Regional Labor Federation, Teamsters, and broader Minnesota labor community, your generosity is truly is amazing and a blessing.

Here are some recent news articles along with photos of the toy drives and deliveries.

From the Crookston Times:

With American Crystal’s lockout of 1,300 union workers continuing, various food and toy drives have been launched.

Wednesday, a hard-to-miss Teamsters semi tractor-trailer pulled up to the local headquarters of the locked-out BCTGM union members, and approximately $23,000 in donated toys for children on up to teenagers was unloaded.

“It’s really overwhelming and I think families will really enjoy this,” said Debra Kostrzewski, toy and food drive coordinator from East Grand Forks.

Nicole Schneider, a member Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 277, organized the toy drive.

Local Teamsters donated the semi and its driver. It stopped in Drayton prior to Crookston, with drop-offs in Hillsboro, Moorhead and East Grand Forks on its schedule.

From KFGO: 

Toy Drive Held For Locked-Out Crystal Workers

MOORHEAD, Minn. – Locked-out American Crystal Sugar workers are getting some help to make sure their kids have a memorable Christmas.

A Twin Cities labor union is donating $23,000 worth of toys and gifts to Crystal families in Drayton, N.D., Hillsboro, N.D., Crookston, Minn., East Grand Forks, Minn. and Moorhead. Organizer Deb Kostrzewski says the lockout is having a profound effect on Crystal workers’ budgets.

The gifts are being delivered in a large colorful semi provided by Teamsters Local 120. Some 1,300 Crystal workers have been locked out since August 1st due to a contract dispute. (Source: Jim Monk)

Stand with Sugar Workers

The lockout has gone on for more than four months and families need financial help to pay for food, medicine, heating fuel, and other necessities. Union members are also taking action to keep up the pressure on Crystal Sugar to end the lockout.

Click here to contribute to the Relief Fund or the Action Fund today.

Crystal Sugar workers also need your help to send a resounding message to company executives that the World Is Watching as they put corporate profits before the people who have made their business such a success for decades.

Click here to sign our petition.

Thank you for any contribution or message of support you are able to give. We want a fair contract and want to go back to work!

Lockout Stakeholders’ Meeting set for December 3

Join Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton on Saturday, December 3 at the Crystal Sugar Lockout Stakeholders’ Meeting.

Meet Governor Dayton and other public officials; listen to the concerns of locked out workers, their families and other valley residents as the lockout enters its fourth month.

The meeting begins at 2 p.m. and takes place at the Student Memorial Union in the Ballroom on the Minnesota State University campus in Moorhead.

The Student Memorial Union is at the corner of 14th St. and 6th Ave. Ample parking is available around the building.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.


Vigil to End the Lockout planned for Nov. 30th in Moorhead

Please join Locked Out American Crystal Sugar Workers, their families, and friends in a short prayer service to end the lockout.

Wednesday, November 30 at 5:30 pm.

We will be meeting at the parking lot located at the Southeast corner of Center Mall Avenue & 3rd Street North, Moorhead, MN. This is near American Crystal Sugar Company headquarters.

BCTGM Welcomes Politicians’ Efforts to Resume Negotiations


November 3, 2011

BCTGM Welcomes Politicians’ Efforts to Resume Negotiations

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Upon hearing calls from Senators Conrad, Hoeven, Klobuchar, Franken, and Representative Peterson for BCTGM and American Crystal Sugar to resume contract negotiations, BCTGM Local 167G President John Riskey issued the following statement:

“We’re happy the elected leaders who represent the Red River Valley share our desire that American Crystal Sugar executives join us at the negotiating table.

“We have always been and continue to be ready to negotiate in good faith on a contract that benefits workers, the company, growers, and the community.

“It was American Crystal Sugar executives who walked away from the table on July 28th, August 25th, and October 26th.

“Nobody is gaining from this lockout. It is dividing the community, putting hardship on families, and costing the farmer-owned co-op money.

“We urge Crystal Sugar executives to listen to our elected leaders and return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.

“We are committed to staying at the table as long as it takes to negotiate a contract we can all agree on, we hope American Crystal will make that same commitment.”


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.).


BCTGM Members Overwhelmingly Reject American Crystal Contract Offer

90% Vote to Reject Contract

November 1, 2011

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – An overwhelming majority of American Crystal Sugar Company’s locked out union workers voted via secret ballot to reject the company’s latest contract proposal.

“Today our members sent a loud and clear message to American Crystal Executives,” said BCTGM Local 167G President John Riskey. “We want to work, but we will not accept a contract that puts our jobs and the entire community at risk.” 


92% of union members voted and 90% rejected the company’s contract offer.  Riskey said the vote should be a signal for American Crystal executives to return to the bargaining table as soon as possible.

“If company executives are serious about getting us back to work, they should return to the negotiating table immediately with real compromises, not just repackaged versions of a contract that has now been rejected twice,” Riskey added. “It’s time for a contract that benefits workers, the company, growers, and the community.”


Since the beginning of the now-three month long lockout, workers have been calling for a fair contract that ensures job security, predictable and affordable health care, and fairness on the job.


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.).