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Associated Press, Published April 05 2013

North Dakota Supreme Court won't reconsider Crystal workers ruling

FARGO – The North Dakota Supreme Court said Friday it won’t reconsider a decision to grant unemployment benefits to locked-out workers at American Crystal Sugar Co.

The court denied a petition for rehearing, which was filed by the company’s lawyers after justices ruled in February that more than 400 locked-out workers in North Dakota are eligible for unemployment benefits from Job Service North Dakota.

Dan Phillips, the attorney for the workers, called the decision “absolutely the right thing” and said it was wrong for the company to file for reconsideration.

“I represent working people and have for 20-plus years,” Phillips said. “Being able to help people who want to work for a living and who are not allowed to work for a living because their employee locked the door to the business, is a very good feeling for me.”

An American Crystal Sugar spokesman didn’t respond Friday to requests for an interview.

The Supreme Court voted 3-2 in February to reverse a lower court’s ruling that said the workers were not eligible for benefits because state law prohibits unemployment insurance for workers involved in labor disputes. American Crystal filed for a rehearing on March 14, saying the ruling impacted payments into a company insurance fund.

Nearly 1,300 union workers in North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa, have been locked out since Aug. 1, 2011, after they rejected the cooperative’s proposed contract. Minnesota and Iowa workers had already been allowed to collect unemployment benefits.

The union has scheduled a fifth vote on the contract April 13. Workers last voted on the contract in December, when 55 percent voted to reject the offer.

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