MASON CITY — Twenty-three Mason City sugar plant workers were locked out of the American Crystal Sugar plant on Monday after negotiations broke down on Sunday.

The local is one of seven affected by the contract breakdown. The Mason City labor force is a small part of the estimated 1,300 workers in plants in North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.

The seven-year contract expired at midnight, said BCTGM Local 269G President Tom Johanns.

A lockout was initiated because without a contract no labor force can be allowed on the premises, Johanns said.

“I guess management is running things inside,” he said.

Johanns was one of half a dozen workers who publicized and protested the lockout just outside the plant on 300th Street, just off Highway 65 north of Mason City.

American Sugar Co. is based in Moorhead, Minn. According to The Associated Press, replacement workers arrived before dawn at some locations on Monday.

The Mason City plant is the only one in Iowa. The local plant is a bulk sugar storage and distribution facility.

“There is no incentive to sit back down” in the current contract proposal, Johanns said.

He said that of the 97 percent of workers in seven plants voting on the plan, 96 percent rejected it.

American Crystal, the  largest beet sugar processor in the U.S., had offered a 17 percent pay increase over five years but workers were upset about provisions covering job security and health care costs.

Yet, workers said, sugar sales are up and management earned a 28 percent increase.

Although American Crystal accounts for 38 percent of the country’s production of sugar from beets and 15 percent overall, the company said it doesn’t believe the lockout will affect sugar production or the industry outlook.

Brian Ingulsrud, vice president for administration, said experienced workers are coming in from around the country and many will receive additional training.

“We don’t intend to miss a beat,” Ingulsrud said.

The union disagreed that employees were easily replaceable.

“The jobs we do, it’s not rocket science nor are we brain surgeons,” union representative Mark Froemke said Monday.

“But the jobs we do in the factory are very skillful jobs. I just don’t believe they are going to be able to run five factories with transient workers who have never been in a sugar factory.”

Despite the high heat and humidity, the workers plan around-the-clock protests at the site.

Besides Mason City, the company has plants in East Grand Forks, Moorhead, Crookston and Chaska, Minn., and in Hillsboro and Drayton, N.D. No replacement workers were seen in Mason City.

The Associated Press and Globe Gazette Online Editor Arian Schuessler contributed to this article.


(37) comments

Oha I Guise
Oha I Guise

Enjoy losing your jobs because someone else says you're not getting paid enough or whatever the case may be.

Good luck in finding another well paying job in Mason City.


BorisTheSpider
BorisTheSpider

Yeppers......your labor bargaining chips have now turned to cow flop. The corporate monolith that is Crystal Sugar can now close the MC operation down with little or no remorse. Your union should've bargained or at the very least hammered out some form of agreement - you seriously didn't think you had the whole whack coming, right? Now you are hosed beyond belief. Good luck with all that, and thank your union for dropping the ball when it mattered most.

TaxedOutPatriot
TaxedOutPatriot

Let's think about the factories that have closed around MC in the last 12-15 years. IMI, Minnesota Rubber, and maybe a couple others that I can't recall right now. Weren't they all union shops? Hmmm...let's see. Decent job for fair wages, or no job? Dang, that's a tough one. Good thing Dems are in control so you can all go on the welfare dime and get some of the great taxpayer health care. That goes statewide...Amana, John Deere(shipping jobs to Mexico, when they all come here),
and other

BorisTheSpider
BorisTheSpider

Methinks Patriot's keyboard taxed out - LOL.

goldenthroat
goldenthroat

If you want more money every year, reguardless of the economy, you have to get a GOVERNMENT job!

Devilla
Devilla

My heart goes out to all those hard-working, honest people that felt they had more than a "job" and felt they were part of a "family" with this company. I sympathise with you for all your years of committment and planning ahead for your retirement years, only to be slapped in the face by those in charge pulling the rug out from underneath you. Loyalty doesn't mean a thing anymore...and this is sad. Stay strong.

mclifer
mclifer

On the other hand, Sometimes I think we should take a moment to thank the unions for asking for higher wages.If it wasn't for them, we would (all) union or not, be making $5.00 or less an hour, no bennies, no nothing. Do you really think any (corporate monolith) plagiarized from below, Is going to pay you any more then they can get away with??? Years ago some people realized that, and formed unions to protect workers from that kind of companies. This country isn't controlled by China, yet. cont.

justathought2
justathought2

Approximately 7 years ago American Crystal Sugar stomped on the long term "family" members from the Mason City plant, crushing retirement dreams, and slapping them in the face after 20+ years of service. Management from above will once again crush dreams and ruin lives at the expense of the working man.

rasmus
rasmus

Good luck to these people. I'm afraid, thanks to the republicans, unions are losing there power. Soon this country will be nothing bunch of have and have nots. Just look at the debt ceiling deal. People who make over $250,000 actually get a tax break!

mclifer
mclifer

On the other hand again: We should all be thankful for what we have, while we have it, because I think that this countries good fortune is about to change, instead of bashing people that have, or are losing what they have worked for. The union idea was good when it started, but unfortunately somewhere along the way, some monolith realized they could make more $$$$ for themselves and forgot about the worker... Now, we are going back to the low paid worker, hang on to what you have, if you can...

Jackson
Jackson

These idiots deserve it. 28% increases and it wasnt enough in this economy? They're right it is not rocket science. Good luck finding another job> At least your boy Obama will take care of you>

firstnationalbankofmom
firstnationalbankofmom

Jackson, it was 17% and spread over 5 years. Management got 28%

Hayduke
Hayduke

With unemployment rates still hoovering near 10% workers are at the mercy of the business owner and will continue to be long into the future. There is no need for a corporation to negotiate a contract anymore when labor can be had so cheaply. "Take it or leave it" is the new norm. If you are going to have to work from the cradle to the grave, you may as well start your own business.

firstnationalbankofmom
firstnationalbankofmom

Unemployment in Cerro Gordo County was 6.3% in June 2011, not near 10%. It's less than the 6.8% rate of June 2010. It is generally accepted that 5% unemployment is normal due to people changing jobs. It's called job friction.

Bradford
Bradford

I hope none of you anti union anti labor whiners went to school on union wages. Maybe if Reagan,Bush,Clinton,Bush,and Obama would close the borders there would have closed the borders there would be less workers and thus lower unemployment rates. If they are punching a clock I doubt that 17 percent over 5 years would be more than 50-60 cents an hr per year. WOW when management gets 28%?

oldHawk
oldHawk

There goes the union. When I was union the people on the other side of town made 1/2 as much doing the same job! I was glad for my wages, but was I doing twice as good as them? NO! Oha|Guise is right, someone else telling your boss that you don't make enough! When unions go on strike, do you think they ever recoup the lost wages? When these workers are sitting on the sidelines, do you think they would do just about anything to go back for lastyear's wages?

oldHawk
oldHawk

Working for the Union is like working for a temp agency. You work to make the fat cats money!!

stnias
stnias

I don't think anyone here will argue that unions have lost their way. We needed unions back in the day but the leaders at the top of the unions have lost their vision and with the lost vision the workers suffer. We complain about the head honchos getting 28% increase but let's also look look at what the big dogs at the top of these unions make as well. Those that got 28% are more likely to have had more education which cost them more to attain their jobs. Regardless this is a sad situation

jojodemo
jojodemo

Jose,Paco,and Pedro will be doing those jobs the next day. Tom I can respect your position..but if they dont close the plant they will just replace you with cheap labor.

rockwell
rockwell

these poor union guys are being asked to contribute a little bit to their healthcare plan, which is currently paid for completely by their employer. An employee with family coverage is being asked to contribute a bit under $70. I pay over 5X that! Give me a break!

Bradford
Bradford

A bit over 70 bucks. Let's see if your making 700 a week thats a ten percent pay cut. So where does that 17 percent spread out over 5 years leave you? Leaves you in the hole. And people here are assuming they could keep the same contract terms, I doubt it. They want to get rid of employer paid health care and the 17% will not cover the cost. If you pay 350 a week you probably are making a whole lot more than the guys on the picket line.

Another
Another

I can't believe that the union thinks it is inappropriate to contribute to health insurance. Wake up union - you are very fortunate to have had FREE health insurance for this long. The rest of us in the real world have paid $$$$ to receive health insurance from our employer. I would be very happy to have received 17% increase in wages over a period of years. The biggest increase I received in the last 5 years was 3% and that was 3 years ago; plus my insurance has gone up every single year.

rockwell
rockwell

Bradford, its $70/month, not per week. that's only about $17/week. And no, I'm definitely not making more than those on the picket line. At $15/hour, my $400 monthly health insurance is a much bigger chunk of my paycheck than they'll ever experience. And how nice its been for 4 straight years now that my pay increase has not covered the increase each year in insurance premiums. I don't complain, though, because I appreciate having a job with benefits for my family.

mclifer
mclifer

Why would anybody in their right mind, apply for a job at a company that paid $17.00-$20.00 hr, 100% health care, gave 4 weeks vacation w/pay, lets see, did I leave anything out??? I sure wouldn't, I'd work for a company that paid a whole lot less, 50% health care, 1 week vacation w/pay, maybe. Then I would complain about the guy that makes more then me, because maybe he is smarter then me, because he applied for the job and got it, and I didn't... It's all about choices, and here we go....

Itsmeagain
Itsmeagain

I have worked for $12 a hour and $300 plus for ins. and only got 1 week vac only to be taken in the winter. So now i have a good job, and from what everyone is saying is that i should not have the higher pay the better healthcare and paided vacation as everyone else. your nuts. I bet that anyone on here would not be talking stuff on here if they had a union job or a gov job. you can all apply for these jobs but you did not because ur lazy, your loss. not our falt we wanted a better pay and ins.

08
08

More jobs in trouble in Mason City. Lets widen more roads and get more food places and stores in this has been town.

Another
Another

I agree 100% with mclifer - you know the facts & expressed it very well. Wake up "Sugar Beeters".... You have it made so 'knock it off'!!!!!

Bradford
Bradford

Another, it is about choices. Reagan fired the air controllers and that gave the companies the choice to hire scabs and replace workers with out bargaining. Crystal sugar probably bargained like the teabaggers on capitol hill bargained, our way or the highway or take it or leave it and we will hire a bunch of job thieving scab laborers.

Another
Another

Bradford.... I agree it is about choices. If the employees choose not to accept the offer (which certainly seems very reasonable in today's economy) OR look for another job. There are not many jobs with the benefits they currently have nor many that guarantee a 17% increase over a few years. Choices - I hope they make a logical one for each of THEM - not what a bargaining unit wants. Once again they chose to join the union. Only in the USA can we openly make our own choice.

KenS
KenS

The offer was for 17% over five years. But those increases would have been all but wiped out by changes in insurance.

But none of that was the sticking point in the proposal. It was language allowing unlimited subcontractors in the plants.

First off, the base wages of these employees, not including overtime is about $42,000 a year. Second, company-wide, there is quite a bit of seniority out there. 30-40 year employees. Longevity means a lot to them, so does security.

KenS
KenS

Last, and most important. The workers did not walk away from the table. They showed up for work, and Management refused to let them work. Big difference between a lock out and a strike.

But what do you care, it aint your household. But you can bet your bippy that your standard of living depends upon them guys outside the gate. As you eliminate more and more higher wages, the whole board shifts............downwards. Until we look like some third world country.

Oha I Guise
Oha I Guise

"Under the contract offer, union members would have seen an 8 percent pay increase this year, including a $2,000 signing bonus. Then an extra 9 percent pay raise would have been spread across the remaining years of the contract."

That evil company really wanted to stick it to the workers.

$70 a month for insurance is still $50 a month less than I pay.

We should all stop buying sugar to support those poor union guys.

Todd Blodgett
Todd Blodgett

Democrats who elected LBJ, Carter, Clinton, and Obama, caused their own misery. Absent LBJ's Great Society, and what his SCOTUS appointees did on the Warren Court, and Carter's/Clinton's C.R.A. and how it wrecked Fannie Mae, and Obama's pro-Illegal Alien stance, and Stimulus/ObamaCare, the U.S. now has 120 Million more people than we'd have had Goldwater won. Can't turn the clock back, but we sure can lay blame where it belongs. These workers would be fine had those four never been President.

LGBTAlly
LGBTAlly

Todd, my friend, the country's current economic problems can be directly attributable to the recent two disastrous terms of GWB, and to the three decades of economic exploitation by Reagan and Bush Sr. as fronts for the military-industrial complex and the oil interests.

In Iowa, TB has returned to the public trough. He seems to have less energy than ever for anything and anyone other than his own interests and those of his friends but he will manage.

Brenda
Brenda

Good luck to those on the picket line. I grew up in a union house. Those times when Dad was on strike were tough but it taught us kids to have the fortitude to stand up for what we believed in. I feel for you and your families and wish the best for you.

mcrailman
mcrailman

[quote]Another said: "Choices - I hope they make a logical one for each of THEM - not what a bargaining unit wants."[/quote]

Another, just in case you are unaware, a bargaining unit in a union shop is each and every one of those members.

Ken, thank you for clarifying, not that it does any good with the anti-union people who really don't know what a union is all about. I wish we could truely educate them on this, but I believe they would still not listen or learn.

KenS
KenS

I really like how some think they have the right to dictate to others how much they must make, what benefits, and if they should not have any job security.

It seems as they are the same people who let a company just walk all over them. "Oh please Mr. Employer, make me work more hours for less money. And if I ever complain, send my job to Pakistan, or replace me with someone who thinks $7 an hour is a living wage." Where will you go when most all jobs pay $7 - $15 an hour? Mom's Basement?

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