American Crystal Rejects Union Offer, Reports Lower Profits

The Moorhead-based company-which reported a 28 percent decline in net proceeds for its most recent quarter-described a recent union offer as a "publicity stunt."

American Crystal Sugar Company has rejected the most recent proposal from the union representing workers who have been locked out by the company, calling the offer “a publicity stunt.”

Separately, the Moorhead-based company on Friday reported its first quarterly results since it locked out 1,300 union-represented workers on August 1 after the workers rejected a company contract offer.

The company's first-quarter net proceeds fell about 28 percent to $186.7 million, and it expects net proceeds for the full fiscal year to be about 30 percent lower than last year, according to regulatory filings. A report by the Star Tribune notes that net proceeds for the farmer-owned co-op are akin to net earnings.

Vice President Brian Ingulsrud told the Minneapolis newspaper that the decline is largely due to weather issues that hurt this year's crop and delayed the start of the sugar beet processing season. Ingulsrud acknowledged that the lockout has had a financial impact on the company but declined to disclose details.

Meanwhile, union representative John Riskey told Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) that American Crystal's use of replacement workers has been a drag on the company's revenue.

Ingulsrud wrote in a Monday letter to the company's employees that American Crystal and union representatives met with a federal mediator last week for an informal discussion. But union officials then presented a formal 16-page proposal and immediately issued a press release about it.

“What was intended to be a good-faith, informal exploration of issue[s] requested by the mediator was turned into a publicity stunt by the union leadership,” Ingulsrud wrote, adding that the company has rejected the offer.

Ingulsrud's letter also states that American Crystal “has been and will continue to be hiring employees to staff what now appear to be long-term temporary positions.”

To learn more about the recent developments at American Crystal, read MPR's coverage here.