Sugar workers vote no for fourth timeby Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
Locked-out union workers at American Crystal Sugar have again rejected the company's contract offer.
Union officials say 55 percent of workers who voted said no on Saturday. It was the fourth time in 16 months workers turned down the same contract.
Lois Hirchert, a 35-year employee at the Moorhead American Crystal factory, said the company gave workers no incentive to accept the contract. But she rejected the notion that workers are losing this labor dispute.
"The farmers lost money," Hirchert said. "American Crystal lost their reputation, they lost a lot of money, they're making bad product. I'm not going to say they won."
Union leaders say they will meet with members before deciding what to do next.
American Crystal issued a statement saying the company is moving forward and attracting high quality temporary workers who are creating a productive and successful new workforce.
Union president John Riskey said he hopes that company president Dave Berg will agree to restart contract talks.
"The members have spoken," Riskey said. "It's time shareholders take over the company and put an end to the losses and the hurt on the community and tell Dave Berg and his negotiating committee to get back to the table."
About 1,300 union workers were locked out by American Crystal in August 2011. The union now has several hundred fewer members because many workers have retired or quit.
Riskey said that after a 16-month lockout, he did not consider the 55 percent margin a close vote. He said the vote showed "union members are staying strong in what they believe and standing up for their rights."
American Crystal Sugar holds its annual shareholders meeting on Wednesday in Fargo, N.D.