WDAY: The News Leader

Published November 30, 2011, 07:09 PM

Controversy centered on comments by American Crystal CEO

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - American Crystal Sugar Union workers are upset over recent comments made by CEO David Berg.

By: WDAY Staff Reports, WDAY

American Crystal Sugar Union workers are upset over recent comments made by CEO David Berg. At a company shareholders meeting on November 7th he was referencing a friend of his that is battling cancer. He then said this:

David Berg – American Crystal CEO: “And I'm not saying a labor contract is cancer, but it affects you, it will drag you backwards, you can't do what you need to do. And I'm not saying we are trying to get rid of the labor contract, we are not about union busting; take that one home with you. We are not about union busting. We cannot let the labor contract make us sick forever and ever, we have to treat the disease and that's what we're doing here.”

The 1,300 locked out union workers had strong reactions to Berg's comments. Union representatives say the comments were "offensive" and a "serious blow" to an "already strained relationship" between company management and the workers.

Union members in East Grand Forks were upset and disappointed in American Crystal's management. They don't believe the remarks were taken out of context and say Berg made a direct correlation between the union contract and a cancerous tumor.

Mel Morris – Union Member: "It was totally unprofessional, uncalled for, for all, the good work that the people have done for Crystal Sugar and those corporate officers, because if it wasn't for them, they wouldn't be getting the big bonuses that they get."

American Crystal believes its words are being taken completely out of context, and shouldn't have been released to the public in the first place. We played the recording for American Crystal Vice President Brian Ingulsrud.

He said he remembers the remarks very clearly, and likening union workers to cancer is absolutely not what David Berg meant. He said the union has taken the statements out of context and what Berg was referring to was the current contract situation.

Brian Ingulsrud – VP, American Crystal Sugar: “If you listen to what he said, he never compared the union or the employees to a tumor or anything having to do with cancer.”

There are still no plans by either side to go back to the negotiating table anytime soon.