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Locked out American Crystal Sugar workers rally support in Minneapolis

By staff

Mark Froemke, an American Crystal worker, President of the AFL-CIO West Minnesot

Minneapolis, MN – On August 21, 75 people attended a dinner in solidarity with American Crystal Sugar workers who have been locked out by their employer for over a year. The event was also a fundraiser; over $9,000 was raised to support the Crystal Sugar workers who have gone without pay for over a year to stand up for their jobs and their union. The event was sponsored by AFSCME Local 3800, the clerical workers union at the U of M, and Next Wave, AFSCME’s young workers’ organization.

August 1, 2012 marked one year since the workers at Crystal Sugar in the Red River Valley area of Minnesota and North Dakota were locked out. Their bosses wouldn’t budge during contract negotiations and insisted on forcing drastic cuts on the workers. At the end of this June, the members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), rejected the employer’s contract offer for a third time. Management wants to double their healthcare costs, ignore seniority when filling new positions, and contract work out to non-union workers.

These workers have held strong for a year against this unfair contract. Workers from North Dakota never received unemployment insurance during the lockout and the Minnesota workers’ unemployment is beginning to run out.

Troy Anderson kicked off the event with music written about the lockout. Mark Froemke, who is an American Crystal worker as well as president of the AFL-CIO West Minnesota Area Labor Council and representative of BCTGM union, inspired the crowd with his impassioned and down to earth appeal to stand up and fight for workers and union rights. Becki Knapper Jacobson, who has worked at Crystal Sugar for over 30 years, also shared her first hand perspectives on the lockout. Joe Burns, author of the influential book Reviving the Strike, gave a perspective on the history of lockouts and reminded the crowd that labor has won the most when willing to go beyond the limits of restrictive labor laws that outlaw basic forms of solidarity. Cliff Poehler, Treasurer of AFSCME Council 5, gave an impassioned appeal to support the locked out sisters and brothers from BCTGM. He also called on the workers to take direct action to reverse the ongoing decline of the organized labor movement. Michelle Sommers, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, reiterated the need to fight back against the bosses.

According to Heather Hemmer of AFSCME Next Wave, who helped organize the event, “Solidarity is important for an event to be successful. The sugar worker fundraiser was successful because we had solidarity among unions and workers. We must remember we are in the fight for social and economic justice together. It is up to us to help each other out. After all, it is the people who have the power – the power of change. Thanks to everybody who helped make the sugar workers event a huge success.”

#MinneapolisMN #classStruggleUnionism #Capitalism #AmericanCrystalSugar