Former Union Leader Says Workers Being Mislead In American Crystal Lockout

Written by Logan Little. Posted in Plains Daily Exclusives

Published on October 03, 2011 with 3 Comments

CROOKSTON, MN – Leaders of the American Crystal Sugar Union are misleading their members with falsehoods and scare tactics in an attempt to extend the three month-long lockout according to a former union member and American Crystal employee.

Jerry Hoiseth – who worked for 39 years at American Crystal Sugar and once served as the treasurer and financial secretary for the local union – was on the Scott Hennen Show earlier today to report on what he’s heard behind the union picket line. Union anxiety has deepened now that the National Labor Relations Board has rejected a complaint filed by the union over Crystal’s negotiating practices, according to Hoiseth. Many workers are worried about the future of their jobs and that is is leading some members to question the veracity of their leaders’ claims.

“From what I hear from the guys, they go into their union shop…and they want to ask questions. I’ve had several of them tell me that they’ve been basically told ‘things are going to change next week’ or basically things to shut their mouths,” Hoiseth said.

In addition to avoiding questions about the progress of negotiations, Hoiseth is also concerned that local union officials are telling their mechanics they’ll lose their jobs if they sign the proposed contract, in spite of American Crystal Sugar’s efforts to alleviate these fears.

“There’s a host of things that have been and are contracted out already. The union leadership is telling their members if they accept this contract, they will start taking away the mechanical positions inside the factory. They’ll just start going right down the line and eliminate people’s jobs and sub-contract them out. And in my heart, I do not believe that’s the company’s intent,” Hoiseth said.

Hoiseth, who criticized International president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Frank Hurt in an editorial piece for the Crookston Times, said that Hurt’s recent condemnation of American Crystal at a North Dakota AFL-CIO state convention served as a condescending reminder of how out-of-touch national union leaders are to the challenges their members face. “He was telling us people that live here in this area that we’re a bunch of doorknobs and idiots unless we listen to what he dictates to us on how to vote and how to think” Hoiseth said.

Hoiseth added, “I wish he’d just stay out there where he belongs out in the East coast with the rest of the weirdos.”

According to media reports, Hurt criticized the “greed” of American Crystal executives and suggested that the lockout of union workers has “disrupted life in the Red River Valley.”

Asked if national politics, and what have some called “class warfare,” has obscured at time the work unions do for their members Hoiseth’s answer was “absolutely.”

According to Hoiseth, both parties need to set aside their pride and resume the negotiation talks. But for the 1,300 union employees who continue to strike while waiting for an appeal of the rejected NLRB complaint, the window of opportunity is getting smaller.

“The longer they prolong this thing… the more agony there is… the more chance there is that absolutely, the union will be out of there.”

“I’m afraid the way it looks like right now, my former union brothers and sisters are probably not going to walk back through those doors unless they’re willing to say to the company, ‘We have to talk…we have to have more conversations’” Hoiseth said.

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  1. Go back to work! Your leaders are out of touch and will do you no good. After I was tossed out of my union I did better.

  2. Striking when unemployment rates are high is idiotic. Does anyone else remember when the union at Steiger Tractor went on strike in the early 80s. Steiger advertised for replacement workers and the response was huge. Strike over. If Crystal Sugar can process their beets with replacement workers, the strikers are toast. 

  3. I wonder how much Frank Hurt’s salary is?  I bet it’s well over $200,000, almost as much as the American Crystal Exec’s.  So not only is Hurt wrong, but he’s a hypocrite. 

    Maybe he should donate all his salary to the ND strikers who aren’t getting their paychecks due to out of touch union leaders and lies they’ve been told about how easily they could be replaced and are being replaced.

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