American Crystal Sugar Workers Reject Contract

MOORHEAD, Minn. (AP) — Union workers at American Crystal Sugar Co. on Saturday overwhelmingly rejected the company’s final offer for a new five-year contract.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reported that more than 1,200 — or about 97 percent — of the union members voted on whether to accept the offer or risk a lockout at the company’s five sugar beet processing plants. Union representative Mark Froemke said of those, 96 percent rejected the contract.

The current contract expires Monday. American Crystal had said if there was no agreement by midnight Sunday, union workers would be locked out Monday morning.

Brian Ingulsrud, American Crystal’s vice president for administration and company negotiator for the talks, told the Forum he was “very surprised by the result and disappointed.”

He said late Saturday there were no plans to negotiate any further.

Froemke and union members didn’t feel the offer addressed such key issues as health care benefits and language in the proposal that dealt with their job protection and seniority.

The negotiations are now “totally in the hands” of the company, Froemke told the newspaper, adding that the union was prepared to meet as early as Sunday morning.

The offer given to union negotiators Thursday night included an 8 percent pay increase the first year, including a $2,000 signing bonus. Another 9 percent pay increase would be spread over the remaining four years of the contract for a total of 17 percent over five years. Pension fund payments also would increase.

The company also modified language on the hiring of subcontract workers, which had been a key concern of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union. The new language would prevent American Crystal from subcontracting work now being done by union employees if that would result in layoffs.

The company’s union workers make about $40,000 on average, according to the union, but the company says they average $50,000 with overtime. The company’s offer would put union workers under its corporate health plan, not a separate union plan. So union workers, who currently pay no premiums, would pay more than $850 a year for family coverage.

American Crystal is the largest beet sugar producer in the U.S. It’s a cooperative owned by about 3,000 shareholders who raise 500,000 acres of sugar beets in the Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota. It has facilities in both states.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Mark from Minnesota Tax Waste

    Hit the road Unions, your days are numbered. First get rid of the State Unions and lets move on from there. But wait, I’m sure the Unions will back the Illegal Immigrants when they apply for these jobs!

    • r

      I agree 100% Mark!!

      • Bill

        Well said Mark!

  • Jay

    Totally agree! Its time for ALL unions to go.

  • Capt.obvious

    17% pay raise over 5 years, in this age is very acceptable, unions are a joke I hope every fool that voted no never gets there job back, some people just don’t get how the world works now, if you won’t do it someone else will for less.

  • reality check

    17% over 5 years and 850$ a year for health insurance with a 2k bonus, $20.00an hour factory job in a small rural town? sounds like they won’t have a problem filling it with new nonunion workers. They should try looking up northwest airlines mechanics and see where this got them.

    I know quite a few people that are skilled, college educated individuals that would jump on a job that paid that well in a heartbeat.

    • Grease Primate

      I work with an ex-Northwest airline mechanic in a local automotive tune and repair business. He’s earning 40% of his last years salary and is the most negative, rotten person to work with. I’m young and have my career ahead of me, $20 per hour with 17% salary increase over 5 years is a freaking dream for me. I get paid $12 per hour and have to pay nearly $3000 per year in insurance for my wife and 2 kids. My wife works 2 part time jobs at $8 and $8.60 per hour. After expenses, we are lucky if we can take the kids to the movies once every 2 weeks. Sign me up for the replacement jobs, I’ll move and gladly take $20 per hour with or without overtime. That 17% raise over 5 years clinches the deal for me.

  • Jill

    Are they hiring replacement workers yet?

    Where do we sign up?

    • jimmy

      Sure you can pass the drug test?

  • Marco

    The Union workers at American Crystal Sugar Co. are out of touch with the real world. An 8% raise plus $2000 bonus the first year, with a 17% total raise of 5 years is a very good deal. So what id they have to pay $850 per year in health insurance? That’s at the norm for most SINGLE folks in the private sector. Lets’ get real here, $40,000 base salary ($20/hr) with the proposed raise schedule is very acceptable. I know a hundred or so folks who would drop their jobs at jiffy lube, Mcdonalds, Taco Bell, Wal-Mart, Et Cetera in a new york minute and move to outstate MN for a job that pays $20/hr with over time moving the $$ into the $50K+ range. Anyone remember the Hormel strike in Austin? Now most of the workers at the Hormel plant are immigrants (legal and illegal). So Union workers at American Crystal Sugar Co., you might want to look at the past to learn from it before it bites you on your posteriorand leaves you without a job.

    • Stupid Conservative

      From Marco
      “An 8% raise PLUS $2000 bonus the first year”

      From the story

      ” The offer given to union negotiators Thursday night included an 8 percent pay increase the first year, INCLUDING a $2,000 signing bonus”

  • Tom

    Lock the union out and start to rehire non union workers, the non union workers will actually work harder and do a better job, You will get more production out of non union workers, The union reps just stabbed the union people in the back as usual.

    • reality check

      Start those non unions out at 20 with something like 3% a year and watch productivity and profits soar and everyone wins

      i work for a telecom company and I pay 3500 a year for insurance my wife at her federal job would be paying almost 10k for family insurance 850 is peanuts! ( $32.00 per biweekly check )

      Union workers please reply I’d like you to justify this!

  • Chuck

    I’ll for 15/HR without health care.

    • jimmy

      @ Chuck

      Will you do it for 10/HR?



  • Esther

    Wow, what’s funny is that on a left leaning news site, no pro-union people have left any comments on here.
    Even they can see how absolutely ridiculous and greedy that union is!
    To most Americans that looks like a dream job!
    Pay increases? My husbands company is on a pay freeze!
    Cheap health insurance? It would cost $2500/month to cover our family on my husbands work plan. We end up having me and the kids on MNCare (yes I know I’m a leech, but I’d also like to pay my bills and buy food) and my husband on a high deductible plan.

    • Engineer

      O.K, I’ll bite. First of all, I am a union member, but I wouldn’t say pro-union, just happen to have a job doing what I love and it’s a job that’s in union jurisdiction. Anyways, we just settled a 3 yr. contract 0%, 1%, 2% and I currently pay $260 a month for family insurance with a $1,000 deductable. Make $65,000 with no overtime. I think the people at the sugar plant are complete morons, they should be ousted. But I’ll tell you what, I would be willing to bet they were arm-twisted or coached by the union reps to vote no. At my workplace, the non-contract got a 2%raise last year, 2.5% this year and who knows how much next year. Again, am not pro-union, but do agree that alot of unions get a bad wrap for GREED!!! MNA nurses union is the worst!

  • Grady

    Ye Gods! I cannot believe that the union members turned down that sweet deal. Cripes! Most of us would jump at a chance to earn what was proposed by the sugar company. Looks like the union folks will be one the dole pretty soon. When does the replacement worker hiring begin? I’ll apply……….

  • CH

    This is pure greed at its finest. Our last 2 year contract was zero percent cost of living and zero for step increases(yearly raises) and the cost of healthcare went up along with an increase in co-pays. I pay over $6000 a year just to have health insurance-not including co-pays and deductibles! Our contract is up at the end of the year now so they are negotiating a new contract but we already know our health insurance is going up by 2.7%. And I am pretty sure given the economic situation with the state, there will be more big fat zeros!!! And with unemployment the way it is, I know alot of people that would be happy just to have a JOB! PURE GREED!!! They won’t know what they actually had till it’s gone!!!!

    • Engineer

      Just a quick question for all you union bashers and again, i’m not pro-union, but I am a union member. So here it is: Would you rather give a union worker making $20 per hr a 17% raise over 5 years or give LaQuisha all her state welfare benifits and get no productivity out of her at all?

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