Crystal Sugar says half of locked out workers will return, half moved on

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American Crystal Sugar says about half of the 1,300 union workers who were locked out for 20 months will return to the company. The other half have apparently moved on to different jobs or to retirement.

A company executive tells the Fargo Forum American Crystal is moving forward with a fresh culture.

Union members approved Crystal's longstanding contract offer earlier this month, after rejecting it in four previous votes.

Labor analysts tell the Forum it's hard to find anything that the union gained from the lockout. They say the company got what it wanted and may slowly but surely do away with the union.

The lockout came with a cost to American Crystal, too, though. The Forum reports that in the fiscal year ending last August 31st, net proceeds were down 30 percent compared to 2010. There were also five injuries at American Crystal Sugar plants after none in the previous 20 months.

After the contract was approved, the company said it would be about six weeks before the union workers returned to Crystal's seven plants.

American Crystal is the nation's largest sugar beet processor, with four Minnesota plants in Moorhead, Crookston, East Grand Forks and Chaska.

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