Lockout hitting hard for North Dakota American Crystal workersHillsboro, ND (WDAY TV) - Ninety-four days and counting; that's how long American Crystal Sugar Workers have been locked out. They've turned down the second contract offer by an overwhelming majority and will now continue to wait, but some have it much harder than others.
Ninety-four days and counting; that's how long American Crystal Sugar Workers have been locked out. They've turned down the second contract offer by an overwhelming majority and will now continue to wait, but some have it much harder than others,
Most American Crystal Sugar Workers are eligible for unemployment; all the plants in Minnesota qualify. But if you work at the one in Hillsboro, North Dakota you're out of luck, not eligible for any benefits. As many of the workers told us today, scraping by is getting harder with each passing day.
Tami Mooney – Locked Out Union Worker: “You learn what's important what's not, your wants and your needs. You do a lot less, you just change your lifestyle.”
Tami Mooney has been working at American Crystal for 30 years. Her husband a locked out union worker as well. Now her days are spent here, a big empty room where locked out workers can gather, doing odd jobs when she can to scrape by. But for Mooney, not having money is overshadowed by something else.
Tami Mooney: “The hardest part is not having a job, not having a purpose to get up and go.”
Like many, time is running out for Mooney. If a deal isn't done by the holidays, she says she'll likely leave American Crystal behind. But with a 90% “No” vote, these locked out union workers are hoping their voice was loud and clear.
Brian Berg – Locked Out Worker: “For people without incomes to vote it down, you know the contract wasn't good.”
Berg is close to retirement, luckier than most because he's getting by okay on his savings. But to him, the most recent contract was just a slap on the face.
Brain Berg: “You feel sort of empty; you feel like you worked hard and did a good job, now they don't want you.”
Union workers did say starting next week they will stop picketing 24-7, but they'll still be out there a majority of the day until they get what they say is a fair and respectable contract.
With close to 200 workers unemployed, the lockout is taking its toll on the small Hillsboro community as well. Many local businesses told us they've seen a significant drop since the lockout began August 1st.
Whether it's a drop in oil changes at the local service station, or fewer prescriptions being filled at the drug store, nearly every part of the community has been affected. Country Hearth restaurant used to deliver multiple meals a day to the locked out workers.
Debbie Johnson – Manager, Country Hearth Restaurant: “The union still orders pizzas from us for there meetings, but yeah we used to deliver food out there every day, so it's been a major difference for us.”
There is still no word as to if or when American Crystal and Union Representatives will meet again for more negotiations.