WDAY: The News Leader

Published July 31, 2011, 08:14 PM

American Crystal Workers Prepare For A Lockout

Union workers at American Crystal will likely be out of work tomorrow. Employees overwhelmingly rejected the company's final contract proposal and no new negotiations have been arranged.

Workers in East Grand Forks continue to rally against a lockout starting tomorrow. They overwhelmingly turned down American Crystal's final contract offer. Now union members want to continue negotiating with the company.

"We're not out here for the money now. They've actually stripped us, they are attempting to strip us of all of our rights to protect one another and that's completely unfair," Assistant Head Steward Steve Walsh said.

The company is already planning for the lockout. Workers rallying outside the plant today were being watched by unidentified security.

"We're good citizens of this community and with the kind of actions that American Crystal Sugar has done, their management team, it makes us appear like we're some kind of undesirables," Head of the AFL-CIO's Red River Valley Council Mark Froemke said.

American Crystal employees received a letter signed by Mr. Ingulsrud in their paychecks before yesterday's vote. The letter highlights the company's final offer and urges employees to accept it. Some employees say it was a slap to the face.

"Basically he complained that the union is telling its members how to vote. First off, that's such a blatant lie, it's pathetic. Because our members are vastly intelligent people they will hear the pros and cons about the contract, which they did, and they voted 96% to vote no," Froemke said.

The current contract expires at midnight. With no new contract in place, and no negotiations scheduled, employees face an uncertain future.

"We are the workers that have been at that plant our whole lives. It's our plant too, and I want to make that very clear, it's our plant too," Froemke said.

Employees say they will show up to work at 7:00 tomorrow morning. If they do face a lockout, they say they want to continue contract negotiations with the company.