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Sugar workers enlist youngsters in hopes of breaking labor standoff

Workers locked out by American Crystal Sugar have turned to their children to make an appeal to the board members of the farmer-owned co-operative. The kids gathered over the weekend to write letters describing the impact the labor impasse has had on their families over the last 14 months. The company insists the contract that's been rejected by the union is its final offer.
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Workers locked out by American Crystal Sugar have turned to their children to make an appeal to the board members of the farmer-owned co-operative. The kids gathered over the weekend to write letters describing the impact the labor impasse has had on their families over the last 14 months. The company insists the contract that's been rejected by the union is its final offer.

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Sugar workers sidestep company, reach out to growers

Union officials for 1,300 locked-out Crystal Sugar workers in Minnesota and neighboring states have mailed letters to individual farmers that own the company. Spokesman Mark Froemke tells the Grand Forks Herald that it's time to "get back to work" as the harvest begins. Crystal Sugar officials say they don't like the move, equating it to the company negotiating directly with workers -- instead of union bosses.

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The board says American Crystal offered several contracts before the lockout that made significant strides towards a compromise with the workers' union. The union plans to appeal the board's ruling.

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Union members are demonstrating at the homes of American Crystal Sugar's directors as the labor dispute drags on. An AFL-CIO spokesman tells the Fargo Forum the demonstrations will continue indefinitely. Roughly 1,300 workers have been locked out from plants in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa for more than a year.

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Wednesday marks one year since 1,300 American Crystal Sugar workers were locked out in a labor dispute. The lockout has frayed nerves and friendships in the five Red River Valley towns where plants are located. A number of workers have found other jobs and are beginning to move on. Others remain hopeful the lockout will come to an end and they will return to the plant.

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American Crystal Sugar Co. officials say the company's chief executive officer will not be attending a proposed meeting with locked-out union workers, the Associated Press reports. The union has invited Crystal Sugar CEO Dave Berg to an Aug. 16 gathering that union negotiator Steven Bertelli described as an "informative, constructive discussion that could contribute to productive negotiations."

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