Crystal union workers vote no on contractIt’s going to be a lockout, after all. American Crystal Sugar Co. union workers face locked gates on Monday, after an overwhelming vote on Saturday to reject the company’s “final” contract proposal.
By: By Mikkel Pates, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
It’s going to be a lockout, after all. American Crystal Sugar Co. union workers face locked gates on Monday, after an overwhelming vote on Saturday to reject the company’s “final” contract proposal.
Union members showed up at their five factory districts in the Red River Valley, as well as at two packaging and transportation sites in Chaska, Minn., and Mason City, Iowa. About 97 percent of the members appeared for the vote, and about 96 percent of the members voted against the proposal in secret ballots that were tallied by about 7 p.m.
John Riskey, president and business manager for the local that includes East Grand Forks and Moorhead, as well as Drayton, N.D., said the vote was universally the same across all locations. Other factories in the valley include Crookston and Hillsboro, N.D.
The proposal was a five-year deal, which would have started with an average of 4 percent increase in its first year, with a $2,000 “signing bonus,” followed by annual yearly percentage increases of 3 percent, 2 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent, among other issues in the 40-page document. Any raise is “meaningless if our health care costs increase even more, or if management can eliminate our jobs and replace us at will,” Riskey said.
Riskey said workers will remain at their posts through the Sunday evening shift, which ends at 11 p.m. or 11:30 p.m. Members of the union — the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers — will be on hand to greet those workers as they leave their shift.
Also, members will show up for the Monday morning shift, which will start at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., but Riskey said they expect to be locked out, as the company promised. If a lockout occurs, members at all locations will start picketing.
Indeed, Brian Ingulsrud, vice president of administration at American Crystal, said the company “unfortunately” will implement its “contingency” plan, in which contract workers will be brought in as replacements. That will start with critical packaging and shipping personnel, and will increase to the rest of the plant force as the weeks go by.
“We’ve told them before we can’t allow employees to work without a contract when we’re preparing for the beet harvest,” he said. “A strike at that time would be at a time when we’re most vulnerable, and we can’t have that happen.”
Ingulsrud said he was surprised at the percentage who voted against the proposal, which the co-op had called its “final” proposal and a “very good proposal.”
He said he was skeptical whether the union negotiating team had been neutral on the proposal, as they had said they would be.
Mikkel Pates is a reporter for Agweek which is owned by Forum Communications Co.