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Tim Lamb, Published December 13 2011

American Crystal union workers are not Berg’s ‘cancerous tumor’

I and many others are hoping for a miracle this Christmas. That is, our American Crystal Sugar workers and management work out their differences and find a way to sign a new contract.

But that will probably not happen. With rhetoric from the CEO of Crystal Sugar, Dave Berg, stating that union workers are like a “cancerous tumor,” I doubt that will bring anyone to the bargaining table. How do you think that makes workers feel?

Just imagine what you would do if one day you went to work and management decided to lock you out. These workers are no different from our teachers, nurses, railroad workers and state employees. Union workers are just like us. They’re not a “cancerous tumor.”

Unions are as American as apple pie, our flag and Santa Claus. Remember, unions brought us child labor laws, the 40-hour workweek, safety in the workplace and equality of pay for women. Unions have been in the Red River Valley for more than 100 years.

They are a part of our fabric, our culture, our history. Like our farmers, our union workers have endured the good times and bad times throughout our long and prosperous history in the valley.

The union workers’ battle with Crystal Sugar management is no different from the War of 1812, when British war ships attacked Fort McHenry and American warships took a stand against them in Chesapeake Bay, near our nation’s capital. The battle cry of Capt. James Lawrence was, “Don’t give up the ship!”

Likewise, the charge for union workers in the Crystal Sugar lockout is: DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP! You have many growers and community-minded citizens behind you. Your fight is our fight.

Having 1,300 local workers locked out from area Crystal Sugar plants is costing the valley an estimated $4 million a month, so that’s $16 million for the past four months. Small communities like Drayton, N.D., are feeling the pinch.

For this, the management of Crystal Sugar got raises this year. They are all receiving million-dollar salaries. Berg is at $2.5 million now. And he’s calling union workers “cancerous tumors.” What?

We need our workers back on the job so they can enjoy Christmas this year just like the rest of us.

Lamb is a Grand Forks attorney.