American Crystal Sugar offers contract changes to locked-out workers

American Crystal Sugar workers locked out
Moorhead, Minn., resident and union worker Arland Woltjer, right, was among those gathered outside the American Crystal Sugar Co.'s processing plant in Moorhead, Minn. when workers were locked out on Aug. 1, 2011.
MPR Photo/Ann Arbor Miller

American Crystal Sugar Company says it is offering a revised final contract to locked-out union workers.

A contract posted on the American Crystal website says union workers have until 11 p.m. on November 1 to accept the revised contract, or the lockout will continue.

Officials from American Crystal point out the amended contract offer addresses two major union concerns. It revises the subcontracting language to guarantee that no employee or position will be eliminated due to subcontracting. The new offer would also delay by a year implementation of a new health care plan that would increase health care costs for union workers.

American Crystal Vice President Brian Ingulsrud said the company changed contract language workers saw as a threat to job security.

"I think that if our employees really voted not because of job security issues which a lot of them have said, then this should be a major change that would change their vote from a no to a yes," he said.

Ingulsrud criticized union officials for not bringing substantial new proposals on job security or health care to the table.

Union president John Riskey said the new offer from American Crystal offers only minor changes to the contract already rejected by workers. He added the contract still threatens workers job security. He says union members are not willing to accept contract concessions.

"Company executives seem committed to continuing a lockout that is tearing the community apart, putting hardship on 1,300 families, and costing a farmer-owned cooperative an unsustainable amount of money," said Riskey in a statement.

Riskey said the union will bring the revised contract to members for a vote. The date for the vote has not been determined.

The contract offer includes a 13% pay increase over five years. A $2,000 signing bonus included in the previous contract offer is not part of the revised contract.

Thirteen-hundred workers at American Crystal Sugar were locked out by the company on August 1 after workers overwhelmingly rejected the company's contract offer.