Supporters Deliver Petition Signed by Tens of Thousands to Crystal Sugar Headquarters
Fargo, ND—Hundreds of union members, their families, and supporters rallied in Moorhead, MN, today to protest the lockout of some 1,300 workers by American Crystal Sugar Company (ACS). After the rally, a delegation of labor and community leaders delivered a petition signed by more than 33,000 people to the company’s headquarters.
The petition calls on CEO David Berg to end the lockout and resume negotiations with his workers, members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM). The petition was circulated on the internet by the BCTGM, American Rights at Work and the Minnesota AFL-CIO. More than 33,000 people had signed by Tuesday.
“This overwhelming response to our petition shows that people support our struggle for justice at Crystal Sugar,” said Nathan Rham, who has worked at the ACS Hillsboro factory for four years.
Event organizers invited the crowd back to the Fargo Labor Temple for refreshments and then sent a delegation of four Crystal Sugar workers and four Cooper Tire workers on a 1,000-mile road trip dubbed From Fargo to Findlay: A Journey for Justice.
On November 28th, Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. locked out 1,050 members of the United Steelworkers (USW) from its plant in Findlay, OH. The company hired replacement workers through Strom Engineering, the same contractor that supplies replacements for the Crystal Sugar lockout. In 2008, when Cooper Tire was in financial trouble, members of USW Local 207L made concessions worth $31 million to save their plant. Meanwhile, CEO Roy Armes saw his compensation more than double between 2007 and 2010 to over $4.7 million. Workers voted against the company’s unfair proposal and offered to keep working while negotiations continued. The company chose to lock them out instead.
“When we heard about the lockout in Findlay, it just all sounded so familiar,” said Becki Jacobson, who has worked at the ACS Moorhead factory for 30 years. “We were looking for a way to build solidarity with USW members because their struggle is our struggle. And this trip is a way for us to take that message beyond our own communities to a wider audience.”
David Foster, Executive Director of the Blue Green Alliance and a former USW regional director, noted the spread of lockouts as a tactic by employers looking to force concessions on workers in a down economy. “If companies can so easily lock out experienced workers and hire replacements through a contractor like Strom, then we will see labor standards drop across the board. This isn’t just about these two lockouts, this is about our way of life in this country. I’m glad to be part of a movement that’s pushing back, and proud to be here for the launch of this Journey for Justice.”
According to Teresa Brown, who worked for Cooper for 12 years, “We are thrilled to be in Fargo and to be taking this Journey for Justice. When we talk to ordinary people about our struggles, they start to understand what it means to be union and what it means to fight for a voice in your workplace.”
The Journey for Justice will head to St. Paul, MN, later today for a fundraiser at the Minnesota AFL-CIO for locked out Crystal Sugar and Cooper Tire workers.
Workers will recount their experiences from the Journey at their blog, crystalgreed.com/journeyforjustice/ and on Twitter @JourneyJustice.