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Published September 02 2012

Forum editorial: A chance to unlock lockout?

The best Labor Day gift for the people of the Red River Valley would be settlement of the labor dispute between union workers and management at American Crystal Sugar Co. The lockout, which is into its second year, has been disruptive for workers and their families. It has tarnished the reputation of a company once known for excellent relations with union employees. It has divided several small communities in the Red River Valley. And it has put the lie to the cooperative spirit that was the foundation of a growers’ cooperative when the company was created.

There might be movement to end the lockout. Last week, union leaders said they were drafting a “ready-to-work” plan that, if implemented, would get the workers back to work just as what appears to be a record harvest of sugar beets begins. A union leader said the union is preparing its members to go back to work – a broad hint that something positive is afoot.

As has been its practice, the company said nothing of substance. “Nothing new to report,” said a company spokesman. Still, it looks like the company is willing to trade proposals, and that could be the opening needed to break the stalemate.

If union leaders and company executives can come up with a transition back to work that saves face for both, the end of the lockout might be in sight. Nothing is certain, given the sorry history of the labor dispute. But union leaders seem to be saying they are willing to engage in a process that will accommodate union members and the company.

For more than a year, there has been little in the news about the lockout to suggest either side was ready to bend even a little. But that might be changing. It would be good news for all concerned if it were so. And it would be an appropriate way to celebrate Labor Day 2012.

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