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Published May 03 2012

Forum editorial: A sugar settlement possible?

It appears American Crystal Sugar Co. and the union representing locked-out workers will resume talks on June 8. That’s the word from union spokesman John Riskey, although there was no immediate confirmation of a meeting from the company. All Crystal has said was standard boilerplate: The company’s final offer is the final offer. No surprise there. The company has raised unresponsiveness and stonewalling regarding the lockout to an art form.

At this point, the best outcome would be to reach a contract agreement and return locked-out workers to work. Of course, many of them have moved on. The lockout is more than a year old, and workers had to find other means of support for themselves and their families. In the end, even the best scenario is not very good.

The most damaging fallout from the prolonged dispute is the deep enmity the lockout caused between a loyal, skilled workforce and management of a company once held in high regard because of its excellent labor relations. No matter how one feels about unions or management, the reputations of the company and the sugar beet growers who own the company have been sullied. The union has fared little better – a few of its members having been accused of dishonesty at the negotiating table and vandalism at factory locations.

So, while the relationship between workers and managers will never be as trusting or cordial as in the past, settling the labor dispute is essential, not only for union workers but also for the long-term stability of the company. It’s been a sour time for American Crystal. When the lockout ends, the situation should get a little sweeter for all.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.