American Crystal Sugar makes final offer to union members

MOORHEAD - Union members will now vote on a final offer from American Crystal Sugar Co. after the final scheduled day of negotiations ended Thursday.

MOORHEAD - Union members will now vote on a final offer from American Crystal Sugar Co. after the final scheduled day of negotiations ended Thursday.

Thursday was the last scheduled day of negotiations before the Monday deadline to renew contracts. If no agreement is met, it could lead to a lockout of more than 1,300 union employees.

"We made our final offer today," American Crystal Sugar Co. spokes­man Jeff Schweit­zer said. "We believe it's a good one."

According to an American Crystal Sugar website, the offer is built on an average $75,000 pay-and-benefits package for employees. Pay will be increased 8 percent over the first year, a percentage that includes a $2,000 signing bonus if agreed upon by Aug. 1.

According to a summary of the contract, there will be another 9 percent wage rate increase spread over the remaining term of the contract, for a total of 17 percent over five years. Pension fund payments will also be increased.


Union employees must transition to the same health insurance plan as other employees as of Jan. 1, 2012.

The offer also increases vacation days, allows drug testing and a clause to allow the company to "promote the most qualified employees into open positions."

American Crystal Sugar Vice President Brian Ingulsrud said union reps initially said they would recommend a "no" vote. But later Thursday evening, Ingulsrud said he was in­formed the union negotiators would make no recommendations, leaving him optimistic a contract would be signed by Monday.

Union members will vote on the agreement in secret on Saturday, ac­cording to John Riskey, president of the local union.

Riskey confirmed that no recommendation would would be made to voters.

Around 100 union supporters rallied for the third straight day on the Veterans Memorial Bridge, holding signs asking for a fair contract and avoidance of a lockout.

"I don't know if no news is good news or not," said Tony St. Michael, a union member at the rally late Thursday.

St. Michael said the worst-case scenario would be American Crystal Sugar refusing to rehire its 1,300 employees awaiting re­newed contracts and building a whole new workforce.


"We certainly don't want to see that," St. Michael said. "We're just asking for a fair contract."

According to the website, "the company modified its subcontracting proposal to address the union's concerns that it could lead to replacing union employees." The modified language specifically prevents American Crystal Sugar from subcontracting work being done by union employees that would result in layoffs.

St. Michael said the company was not just an employer; it is part of many families who have multiple generations working there.

Joann McDonald agreed. McDonald began a career with American Crystal in 1979 and retired eight years ago.

Thursday, McDonald said she was attending the rally to support her daughter, who now works for American Crystal.

Ingulsrud said the company was very hopeful the contract would be agreed upon and a lockout avoided.

"We would want to resume talks as soon as possible if there was a lockout. Our intention would be to get our employees back to work as soon as possible," Ingulsrud said.

A copy of the full contract offer can be found at .


Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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