Unions stand together on Veterans Bridge

FARGO -- The Veterans Memorial Bridge between Fargo and Moorhead was full of honking cars and cheers of support for union workers Saturday afternoon.

Dave Wallis / Forum Communications Co. Demonstrators line the Veterans Memorial Bridge between Fargo and Moorhead asking for support in the American Crystal Sugar lockout Saturday.

FARGO -- The Veterans Memorial Bridge between Fargo and Moorhead was full of honking cars and cheers of support for union workers Saturday afternoon.

About 75 members of various unions and allies held up signs and waved to passers-by in support of the American Crystal Sugar workers who have been locked out of their jobs since August.

Some signs were printed, some signs were homemade, but all had a similar message: Let American Crystal Sugar workers go back to work.

Some signs had slogans like "Support Our Workers," "End the Lockout," "Proud to be Union," "American Crystal Sugar Killing the American Dream" and "When will they have enough?"

Dean Marvig is one of these locked-out workers. His sign read, "American Crystal Sugar: Corporate Greed in Your Backyard."


Marvig took the slogan from the Occupy Wall Street protests that have been taking place in New York. He said this lockout is frustrating to him because it creates a tough situation for a lot of different people.

"They've gotta budge on both sides," he said. "As long as the company's not gonna move, they're not gonna do anything. Union leaders are trying."

Barb Gerlach showed her support at the protest for her husband, Dennis, who is another locked-out worker. Right now they don't have any insurance, but fortunately they don't have any children at home right now either, she said.

"It's a day-to-day thing," she said. "We want him to get his job back ... he's been there for over 30 years. Never thought this day would come."

Tony St. Michel, assistant head steward of the Moorhead Crystal factory, said they're all standing strong in this fight together.

"These people just want to work," he said. "It makes me proud to see all these people stand up for us."

Some people driving on the bridge honked in support of the rally, but not all of the drivers agreed with the message. One driver yelled out "Get a job!" to which an ACS worker yelled back "I do!"

Cindy Antonson, chairwoman for the Uniting Unions Committee for the Minnesota School Employees Association, said she needed to take action and show support.


"Unions in this area stand united," she said. "These are our neighbors, they go to church with us, they're our friends, and we need to show our support."

Antonson said a lot of people have a misunderstanding about unions. The ACS workers weren't fired; they were locked out of their jobs.

"And in these hard economic times, that hurts, and it hurts deeply," she said. "That is not how you treat family. This is to let people know our unions stand together."

Sue Carnahan, state president for American Postal Union Workers, heard about the protest by word of mouth.

"It's fun," she said. "I just wish we didn't have to do it."

Amy Steffens, from the National Association of Letter Carriers and Northern Plain United Labor Council, agreed.

"But it's necessary to get people's awareness up," she said. "We want to show this union that we support them all, and they need all the support they can get right now ... we want this to end."

Jessica Ballou is a reporter at the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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