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Forum Communications, Published August 16 2012

Minnesota Congress members suggest new mediator in Crystal dispute

GRAND FORKS - It may be time to bring in a “new high-level mediator” to help resolve the yearlong labor dispute between American Crystal Sugar Co. and unionized workers, four Minnesota members of Congress suggested Thursday.

The suggestion came in a letter Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz, all Democrats, sent to leaders from both sides.

They noted that the lockout of workers began Aug. 1. That’s the day after union members voted to reject Crystal’s contract offer.

While the lawmakers did not overtly take sides in the matter, there was this line: “It is our understanding that the proposal on the table is nothing new while the union has made many concessions.”

Executives of Moorhead-based American Crystal have said they’re sticking to their offer, and seemed comfortable with the temporary replacement workers they’ve hired.

“The area’s farmers, union members and American Crystal Sugar have all suffered from this lockout,” the letter said. “The Red River Valley’s small towns and communities have felt the impact.”