Sugar Beet

TruthToTell, Mon., Dec 19 @9AM: CRYSTAL SUGAR LOCKOUT: No Sweet Deal on the Table-AUDIO BELOW

On-air date: 
Mon, 12/19/2011

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This final week before Christmas brings into sharper relief than usual the plight of giant Red River cooperative American Crystal Sugar’s lockout of its 1,300 workers – still going as it has since August 1, the day after the members of the consolidated union, Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), rejected the company’s final offer by a 96% margin. Talks are suspended, despite Governor Mark Dayton's letter offering to help with negotiations. The company did not respond and a federal mediator asked that the Governor not be involved. Crystal has plants in both Minnesota and North Dakota.

This is a break with the long company tradition of cooperation between the long-time farmer-owned sugar beet processing co-op and its organized workers. This was hardly the time to leave the bargaining table, but American Crystal Sugar’s management, especially President/CEO Dave Berg and his chief administrative VP, Brian Ingulsrud, have decided, they say, to go with replacement workers, all of them nonunion and inexperienced, according to insiders.

*SUGARBEET PROCESSING TO CRYSTALINE SUGAR:

Lockouts appear to be the coming thing as a way to pressure already stressed workers into caving into company demands that wage cuts, health care burdens and reduced pensions all be accepted as concessions to the lousy economic times the company claims are stifling profits. It seems contrary to reports since the lockout began that American Crystal enjoys record profits after a banner crop of sugar beets and significant contracts for their sugar product as well as a fair jump in pay granted to senior executives.

The issues here are rippling across Minnesota and North Dakota as unemployment compensation benefits dry up for the Minnesota-side workers. North Dakota’s workers remain out of work without unemployment benefits because of the definition that state’s laws give the type of work stoppage at American Crystal.

Fewer and fewer American workers are creating the goods and performing the services we consume. Most of the core work of this society is being shipped elsewhere, reducing real income and economic stability for those left behind. Like the P-9 union working for Hormel Meats in Austin, the sugar workers and the farmers who own Crystal Sugar for decades enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. This is disintegrating in the current climate, a climate that leads to statements like that uttered by Crystal CEO in effect, they say, likening the workers to “a 21-pound cancerous tumor.”

As unions membership diminishes and strikes and lockouts have left even fewer workers members of unions, rank and file workers and their leadership have shown a willingness to ignore long-term effects of their work on environments and health as long as work is created.

“Jobs!” has become the rallying cry for conservatives and corporations insisting that if government and workers fail to yield to demanded concessions and bailouts, everyone will be out of a job. This sort of thing scares politicians and a jobless workforce into conceding and redirecting wealth to the already wealthy. In fact, more union members are voting for Republicans or Tea Party candidates these days than their traditional cheerleading Democrats.

What are the issues causing such a serious split between this huge cooperative and its workers? Is it possible to resolve this dispute as long as a lockout is allowed and replacement workers hired? What is the definition of a cooperative like Crystal Sugar? (Land-O-Lakes, Cenex and Great River Energy are also large coops.) The BCTGM is a consolidation of several unions seeking strength in numbers. Where is that strength in the face of the company’s lockout tactic?

Where will this take us? Have corporations grown so large and powerful and unions less and less relevant that fair resolution of labor stoppages is less likely now and later?

TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and guest co-host PROF. TOM O’CONNELL will ask this week’s guests these questions and more.

GUESTS:

MARK FROEMKE – President, AFL-CIO West Minnesota Area Labor Council and Representative of the Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Union

NIEL RITCHIE – Executive Director, League of Rural Voters

Our attempts to invite American Crystal Sugar executives CEO DAVE BERG and Vice President of Administration BRIAN INGULSRUD were unsuccessful.


54:38 minutes (50.03 MB)

TruthToTell, Mon., Dec 19 @9AM: CRYSTAL SUGAR LOCKOUT: No Sweet Deal on the Table; TruthToTell, Mon., Dec 12 @9AM: HOUSING, HOMELESSNESS AND AFFORDABILITY: Living Dichotomy

Remember – call and join the conversation – 612-341-0980 – or Tweet us @TTTAndyDriscoll or post on TruthToTell’sFacebook page.

HELP US BRING YOU THESE IMPORTANT DISCUSSIONS OF COMMUNITY INTEREST –

PLEASE DONATE to CIVICMEDIA-MINNESOTA HERE!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TruthToTell, Mon., Dec 19 @9AM: CRYSTAL SUGAR LOCKOUT: No Sweet Deal on the Table -KFAI FM 90.3/106.7/KFAI.org

This final week before Christmas brings into sharper relief than usual the plight of giant Red River cooperative American Crystal Sugar’s lockout of its 1,300 workers – still going as it has since August 1, the day after the members of the consolidated union, Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), rejected the company’s final offer by a 96% margin. Talks are suspended, despite Governor Mark Dayton's letter offering to help with negotiations. The company did not respond and a federal mediator asked that the Governor not be involved. Crystal has plants in both Minnesota and North Dakota.

This is a break with the long company tradition of cooperation between the long-time farmer-owned sugar beet processing co-op and its organized workers. This was hardly the time to leave the bargaining table, but American Crystal Sugar’s management, especially President/CEO Dave Berg and his chief administrative VP, Brian Ingulsrud, have decided, they say, to go with replacement workers, all of them nonunion and inexperienced, according to insiders.

 Lockouts appear to be the coming thing as a way to pressure already stressed workers into caving into company demands that wage cuts, health care burdens and reduced pensions all be accepted as concessions to the lousy economic times the company claims are stifling profits. It seems contrary to reports since the lockout began that American Crystal enjoys record profits after a banner crop of sugar beets and significant contracts for their sugar product as well as a fair jump in pay granted to senior executives.

What are the issues causing such a serious split between this huge cooperative and its workers? Is it possible to resolve this dispute as long as a lockout is allowed and replacement workers hired? What is the definition of a cooperative like Crystal Sugar? (Land-O-Lakes, Cenex and Great River Energy are also large coops.) The BCTGM is a consolidation of several unions seeking strength in numbers. Where is that strength in the face of the company’s lockout tactic?

Where will this take us? Have corporations grown so large and powerful and unions less and less relevant that fair resolution of labor stoppages is less likely now and later?

TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and guest co-host PROF. TOM O’CONNELL will ask this week’s guests these questions and more.

GUESTS:

MARK FROEMKE – President, AFL-CIO West Minnesota Area Labor Council and Representative of the Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Union

NIEL RITCHIE – Executive Director, League of Rural Voters

Our attempts to invite American Crystal Sugar executives CEO DAVE BERG and Vice President of Administration BRIAN INGULSRUD were unsuccessfu

Our attempts to invite American Crystal Sugar executives CEO DAVE BERG and Vice President of Administration BRIAN INGULSRUD were unsuccessful.

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TruthToTell, Mon., Dec 12 @9AM: HOUSING, HOMELESSNESS AND AFFORDABILITY: Living Dichotomy-Audio HERE

Has it struck anyone else that heading into the dead of winter, we have record numbers of people who remain homeless, with more coming from a record number of foreclosures plaguing a housing market with depleted values while creating thousands of vacant properties, putting people with mortgages underwater?

And still we fight for affordable housing. Do these facts simply not make sense?

All kinds of agencies around the cities are set up to create and operate affordable housing complexes, but where are the banks and other financial outfits and why aren’t they helping to stop this bleeding of people into Twin Cities’ and other cities’ streets and shelters while the banks deal with vacant homes and apartment complexes from which their policies have drive so many owners and renters?

We’ll talk about where we stand with affordable housing facilities and public policies that seem at a loss to do much about this conundrum and where the affordable housing of tomorrow should come from and where it should be built.

TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and Guest Co-Host LENNIE CHISM ask our guests just how we resolve these issues, if at all.

GUESTS:

GINA CIGANIK – Vice President, Housing DevelopmentAEON (formerly Central Community Housing Trust)

ANDRIANA ABARIOTES – Executive Director, LISC (Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation)

BOB BOYD – Director of Policy and Special Initiatives, Minneapolis Public Housing Authority