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Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald , Published January 12 2012

Hitler as American Crystal Sugar’s David Berg? YouTube spoof has lockout ending badly for company

GRAND FORKS - American Crystal Sugar Co. managers are the latest group lampooned through an edited YouTube clip taken from a film about the last days of Adolf Hitler.

The original clip, from the 2004 German film “Downfall,” shows Hitler raging about setbacks while a number of aides and generals look on, terrified. Running a little more than three minutes, the segment ends with a subdued Hitler acknowledging that all was lost.

It has been altered with English subtitles to spoof any number of people and causes — more than 100, the New York Times found in 2008 — from Hillary Clinton and John McCain to English soccer teams, Hitler’s inability to make his Xbox work to a suggestion that he seek asylum in North Dakota.

In the latest version, posted on YouTube this week, Hitler is Crystal Sugar President David Berg, ranting to aides crowded into his bunker about the cost and duration of the lockout, now in its seventh month.

“You told me that the union would break by Thanksgiving!” Hitler/Berg screams. “Then you said Christmas, and yet the union is out there with those … signs and their solidarity (bull).

“Our resources are exhausted, sugar totes stacked all over the place in every factory, the equipment is breaking down,” he cries. The beleaguered leader laments that Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., keeps meeting with union members, and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is “always calling.”

‘Character assassination’

The video is posted on a pro-union blog that appears to be operated by a locked-out union member or ardent supporter. In other posts there, some people the company hired as replacement workers — locked-out workers call them “scabs” — are identified by name and photographs. Some are accused of illegal or unprofessional activity in or outside the workplace.

Mark Froemke, president of the AFL-CIO’s Western Minnesota Area Labor Council and on leave from the East Grand Forks Crystal plant, said he had nothing to do with the video spoof.

“I’m not aware of that, but it sounds hilarious,” he said.

John Riskey, president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 167G, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jeff Schweitzer, a spokesman for the company, said that managers are aware of the video but didn’t care to discuss it.

“American Crystal really isn’t going to engage in any character assassination,” Schweitzer said. “Our aim is to negotiate with respect with our employees to get a fair settlement.”

Froemke also was more inclined to reiterate the union’s call this week for renewed talks with the company regarding the lockout.

“Hopefully, that’ll bear fruit,” he said. “I think it’s important for both the company and the union to come together and hammer this out. We said we’d sit there until it was done.”

Clips removed

The Huffington Post reported in June 2010 that the owners of “Downfall” had asked YouTube to take down videos in which the scene from their film was used sarcastically, and YouTube was slowly complying.

The pro-union blog that posted the Crystal parody doesn’t identify who created and operates it, but it offers this statement of purpose:

“What would you make of it if you came to work one day and the door was locked and your key didn’t work, but some random person who you never seen before has a working key? That random person goes by you as if you never existed and walks through the door. That person took your job and livelihood, and that person is a bad neighbor.

“This is what happened to American Crystal Sugar workers. The scabs who took their jobs are pathetic; leaching off the tragedy of others like vultures. We will expose these bad neighbors.”

As with previous spoofs using the “Downfall” clip, this one ends with “the leader” — Hitler as Berg — admitting defeat.

“We must now give in to the union’s demands and hope the board members do not take away our bonuses or fire us,” he says, according to the subtitles.

“End the lockout. Send word to John Riskey and set up a meeting to negotiate, preferably in a secret location to avoid the local media.”