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Mike Mastin, Published November 25 2011

What has happened to ‘Pure, Proud and Sweet’?

Many people have asked me why I think American Crystal Sugar Co. employees need good wages and good health and dental insurance coverage. The main reason is that we work rotating shifts about nine months of the year. Some of the packaging employees work rotating shifts all year long.

Rotating shifts are extremely hard on your health. If you search “effects of rotating shifts” on the Internet, you will find countless articles from many government agencies that describe the ill effects of working rotating shifts and just how bad it is for your health. There are articles about how working on rotating shifts for years will shorten your expected life span. We work on concrete floors all of the time, and when we are not on the floor, we are climbing ladders and piping or scaffolding. This is extremely bad for your knees, and many of us have suffered knee troubles over the years.

Another problem with working rotating shifts is the fact we miss most of the holidays with our family. We may get to share Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas Eve, Christmas dinner, New Year’s, or Easter Sunday dinner with our families maybe once every four years. We miss many of our children’s activities and school events because we have to work. We get only one weekend a month off to socialize with friends and families, or to go camping or fishing with our families.

We are also tired much of the time because our bodies are always trying to adjust to a different schedule. This affects not only sleep schedules but also eating and bodily function schedules.

Sugar beet growers should understand some of this from the three to four weeks during beet harvest when they have to work long and unusual hours. Imagine working that schedule for nine months every year instead of just harvest time.

Over the past few years, ACSC has had a lot of trouble filling jobs at the factories because about eight out of 10 of the “new hires” don’t stay for the 45-day probation period because they don’t like the shifts or the hard work.

I know that most of the people I work with at the factory in Moorhead are always doing their best to make sure that “down times” are short and efficiency is at its maximum so the farmers get the best return for their investment that they can. It shows by the record beet payments sugar beet farmers have been getting over the past few years.

I would like the sugar beet farmers who own this cooperative to think about how good it has been, and will continue to be. Also think about how this is affecting all ACSC employees, not just the union people and their families. After all, we are friends and neighbors to many of you. Think about how this is affecting our community.

We need to put the “Proud” back in “Pure, Proud, and Sweet.” Remember that slogan? You don’t see that on the sugar bags anymore. Why is that?

Contact your representatives on the board of directors and tell them to let our insurance stay as is and get us back to work. This lockout is costing you a lot more than our insurance does.

Mastin works in American Crystal’s Moorhead factory.