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Published June 15, 2012, 09:38 AM

Union workers to vote a 3rd time on Crystal offer

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — Locked-out workers at American Crystal Sugar Co. factories in North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa will vote for a third time on the company's contract offer.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — Locked-out workers at American Crystal Sugar Co. factories in North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa will vote for a third time on the company's contract offer.

The vote is scheduled for June 23, union spokesman John Riskey said. Union members overwhelmingly rejected the contract offer last July 31 and Nov. 1, saying it takes away too much job security and that wage increases would be offset by health insurance costs.

The decision to hold another vote came after representatives of the two sides met last week for a fourth time with a federal mediator but were unable to end the impasse. The company — the largest sugar beet processor in the country — is standing by its final offer, saying it is fair.

The dispute has lingered more than 10 months. Last Aug. 1, American Crystal locked out about 1,300 union workers at sugar beet processing plants in the three states and filled their positions with replacement workers. Crystal officials said thousands of people have applied for the replacement positions, indicating that the company is paying well.

Turnout for the union's third vote could be much lower. Riskey said some union workers have retired, while others have left the union for replacement positions or left the area for jobs in western North Dakota's oil patch.

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