Jim Geyer, Published December 04 2011
American Crystal Sugar moving from a sweet to a sour companyThe American Crystal Sugar lockout has been fascinating to follow – even for someone who buys maybe five pounds of sugar a year.
In the past, American Crystal was a sweet deal for all involved. The workers were well paid and happy to see the executives and growers do well. CEO David Berg will make nearly
$2.5 million this year. Several other executives will receive nearly
$1 million each. The growers expect a record payment of $796 million.
Four months into a company lockout of the union workers, it has to be clear to everyone that American Crystal wants to break the union. Berg considers the union contract a “cancer.” If he can get rid of the contract, of course he won’t care if there is a union. It will be powerless. If the company is successful, some consequences are obvious:
- The executives will expect a substantial bonus. Some multiple of current pay would likely be viewed as appropriate.
- Worker loyalty will disappear. If it’s clear the company and growers don’t care a whit about you, why care about them? Everyone will be looking for a better job.
- Workers who lose their jobs will be bitter toward the company and the growers for a long time, as will their families. That could be a lot of people wishing you less than well.
- The company reputation will take a hit. Advertising costs will go up to counter bad publicity. Eventually, someone may claim the struggle is 1 percent vs. 99 percent.
- Perhaps the most expensive, increased outlay will be for lobbying Congress to maintain the sugar support program in a period of austerity. No longer will the growers have local and national unions supporting the sugar program. Even local consumers might question why they pay extra for sugar to support wealthy growers. The growers may be all alone in their lobbying.
- American Crystal appears to be moving to a sweet and sour company. Sweet for executives and growers; sour for workers. Fascinating to watch, but a little sad, too.