Gayle Lund, Published February 09 2012
It is obvious that Crystal Sugar executives aim to break the unionOn Feb. 2, Chris Berg (1100 the Flag) did a show on KVLY “POV.” He spoke about Roger Banister running the sub-four-minute mile in 1954. He did an analogy on seniority rights of locked-out Crystal Sugar workers. He asked if employees should be awarded jobs based on seniority or performance.
Well, Crystal union employees ran the four-minute mile last beet campaign. We were faced with processing an
11.5 million-ton crop, something that had never been done before. We started the factories early and ran with it. We broke slice and sugar production records day after day. At the same time, the growers received record prices for their sugar. All this while being understaffed for the entire processing campaign. Executives and the growers all received record compensation off our backs.
We employees process sugar more efficiently than any other sugar company in the country. In July, the company brought in a catered meal for us to celebrate our achievements. David Berg gave us an A+. We all received letters from the company a week later telling us to remove tools and belongings from the premises by Aug. 1. We all showed up for work on Aug. 1 only to find the gates locked and the lines drawn.
I was a process technician 1 at the Moorhead factory. To qualify for this position, I was required to pass reading, math and mechanical aptitude tests, and a welding and cutting exam. I went through 3½ months of classroom training, followed by four years of on-the-job training. I had to take and pass assessments on every work station in the factory.
Our union offered the company a no-strike agreement and offered to work under the old contract until an agreement could be reached. Our union has had an open invitation to negotiate any time, any place since the lockout began.
The company has said that health insurance was the major sticking point. Our union reps met with the company in January. The union offered 20 concessions including moving to the company health care plan. The company offered no concessions. After considering the offer for five minutes, Joe Talley threw the original July 28 offer back on the table, minus the sign-on bonus.
It has become obvious that Crystal is trying to break our union. Union members, however, have only strengthened their resolve. I have given my all to Crystal Sugar for 23 years. How can a company treat its employees this way?
Crystal Sugar, we need to know your intentions now so we can either go back to work or move on with our lives.