American Crystal workers picket Fargo grocery store

Sugar boycott
Locked-out union workers Kari Sorenson, far left, of Fargo, N.D., Darlyne Dahl also of Fargo, N.D., and Steve Hedberg of Halstad, Minn., were among two dozen or so workers and their supporters who gathered outside a Fargo grocery store on Monday to mark the kickoff of a boycott of Amercian Crystal Sugar products. The nationwide boycott is intended to raise consumer awareness about the ongoing contract dispute between American Crystal and 1,300 union workers.
Ann Arbor Miller for MPR

Union members who've been locked out by American Crystal Sugar for more than a year picketed outside a Fargo grocery store Monday in an effort to get public support for a boycott.

Fargo police kept about a dozen union members out of the store's parking lot. The locked-out workers were forced to stand on a public sidewalk far from the store's entrance.

Tom Taber, who worked at American Crystal's plant in Hillsboro, N.D. for 34 years, is hopeful the boycott will pressure the company to negotiate with workers. But he's not optimistic the union action will succeed.

"No, I don't think this is going to have a big impact, but you know they're down to 'what can you do,' " he said. "I guess we're pretty well just screwed. That's what it is."

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AFL-CIO union organizer Mark Froemke said the boycott is unlikely to have a large economic impact on American Crystal, but he hopes the company brand will suffer from bad publicity.

Union workers
Locked-out union workers and their supporters pack up after picketing for two-hours outside a Fargo, N.D., grocery store on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012. Picketers were forced to stand on public sidewalks away from the store's entrance.
Ann Arbor Miller for MPR News

"It's a sad day that we have to boycott a company that we worked our whole lives for," Froemke said. "It's a good name and now it's being tarnished by the leadership."

Union officials say informational pickets went up at about 30 stores nationwide today.

American Crystal Sugar locked out 1,300 union workers 14 months ago.