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Ryan Bakken, Forum Communications Co., Published May 02 2012

Union: Crystal lockout negotiations to resume June 8

GRAND FORKS – American Crystal Sugar Co. and the Bakery Worker’s union will resume talks on June 8.

So says John Riskey, president of Local 167G, which represents locked-out workers at Crystal plants in Moorhead, East Grand Forks, Minn., and Drayton, N.D.

“We hope there will be negotiations,” he said. “The last few times we met, they just listened.”

The company recently settled a contract with its workers at a plant in Sidney, Mont. But Riskey wasn’t willing to suggest that was a hopeful sign for a settlement between the sugar-manufacturing co-op and its 1,300 workers, locked out since Aug. 1, when they rejected a contract proposed by management.

“American Crystal’s offer in Sidney didn’t have any language changes and they have (many) pages of language changes in our contract,” Riskey said. “If they gave us the same offer as they gave in Sidney, we probably wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Brian Ingulsrud, the vice president of administration who is American Crystal’s spokesman, did not return a phone message.

There is a lag of more than a month until negotiations because it is “the earliest date they said they had available,” Riskey said.

Crystal is approaching the end of its processing season, using “temporary” workers that it hired on after the lockout began. Ingulsrud said last week that Crystal is hiring with the intention that temporary employees might become the co-op’s “long-term workforce.”

The last time the two sides met was in February, but they failed to overcome their differences.

Management wants union members to pay health insurance premiums, offering to pay for one last year, and the right to promote by merit rather than seniority.

Union members said paying premiums would erase too much of the raises they’re looking for, and they worry about job security.


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Ryan Bakken writes for the Grand Forks Herald.