Fed. Agency Sides With American Crystal in Labor Dispute

The National Labor Relations Board dismissed all four complaints filed by the union that represents workers who were locked out last month by American Crystal Sugar Company.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sided with American Crystal Sugar Company in its dispute with 1,300 union workers that it locked out on August 1 after they rejected a new labor contract offer.

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 167G-the union representing the workers-filed four complaints alleging that American Crystal failed to negotiate in good faith prior to the lockout and violated the National Labor Relations Act.

The NLRB dismissed three of the claims on September 9 and dismissed the final claim earlier this week.

In a Monday letter sent to an attorney representing the union, NLRB Acting Regional Director James L. Fox said that his organization's investigation found that American Crystal clearly laid out its objectives when bargaining began and explained its proposed changes to the union.

The union “repeatedly refused” to consider American Crystal's proposals and “made virtually no counterproposals” to try to address the company's objectives, the letter said. Additionally, American Crystal's last two proposals before the lockout contained “significant movement” and included “significant concessions” on “non-economic items.”

“Throughout the bargaining process, we have committed to good-faith negotiations in the interest of reaching a fair agreement with our employees,” Brian Inguslrud, American Crystal's vice president for administration, said in a statement. “The National Labor Relations Board's dismissal of the union's charges clearly affirms that we have acted with transparency, clarity, and willingness to compromise.”

John Riskey, president of the union representing the workers, told Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) that the union will appeal the NLRB's ruling.

Union spokesman Mark Froemke told MPR that he wasn't surprised by the ruling and said there's been no move to resume contract talks. “We surely hope as the union that American Crystal and us could get back to the table,” he told the news organization. “That's what [we've] strived for since the first of May when we started the negotiation process.”

The lockout is reported to be one of the largest labor stoppages in Minnesota in recent years.