Crystal Sugar officials, union plan to discuss lockout – TwinCities.com

A delegation representing locked-out union workers at American Crystal Sugar Co. is taking its case to the people who own the company.

The union says it will hold a press conference before Thursday’s annual shareholders meeting at a Fargo hotel, and then deliver petition signatures calling for the end of the lockout.

A Crystal spokesman says the company will hold its own news conference shortly after noon Thursday, Dec. 6.

Moorhead based American Crystal is a cooperative owned by about 2,800 sugar beet growers.

About 1,300 union employees were locked out of their jobs on Aug. 1, 2011, after contract negotiations broke down. The company has been using replacement workers at its plants in North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.

The union last weekend voted for a fourth time to reject the contract.

via Crystal Sugar officials, union plan to discuss lockout – TwinCities.com.

Cloquet steelworkers to vote on contract with Sappi paper | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

Sheets of pulp await packaging for shipping at the Sappi facility in Cloquet. Sheets of chemical cellulose will be processed in a similar manner. (2012 file / News Tribune)

United Steelworkers Local 11-63 will have a vote this week on a proposed contract with Cloquet’s Sappi Fine Paper, a week after it authorized a strike if the mill and union could not come to an agreement.

USW Local 11-63 President Brady Nelson confirmed Monday night that workers will vote Friday on a “revised tentative agreement.” Nelson would not elaborate on how talks led to a contract on which to vote.

Sappi employees have been working without a new contract since May.

The company said last week that it was offering a competitive package.

Nelson said this fall that issues with the proposed new contract included elimination of some retiree benefits for younger union members, an increase in the medical insurance deductible and limitations to holiday pay accrued while employees are off work due to accident, illness or military leave, something the union gave up wages and benefits to gain during the 2007 negotiations.

The USW represents roughly 400 of about 715 employees at the mill.

Last year Sappi announced plans to convert the existing pulp mill to produce chemical cellulose, a purer form of cellulose that can be made into a fabric for clothing, wet wipes and other consumer products. In June, ground was broken on the $170 million project.

The project is the largest investment Sappi has made in North America in some time, and the largest investment at the mill since the $500 million former Potlatch mill expansion in the 1990s. The conversion project is expected to be completed early next summer.

via Cloquet steelworkers to vote on contract with Sappi paper | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

LA Port Union Contract Talks Adjourn Without Resolution Amid 5th Day Of Strike (VIDEO)

LOS ANGELES — Contract talks between clerical workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and shippers have resumed as the strike entered a sixth day on Sunday.

The walkout has dramatically slowed activity at the nation’s busiest cargo complex as dockworkers refuse to cross picket lines set up by union clerical workers.

The clerical workers began striking Tuesday to raise the ante in a 2 1/2-year-old contract battle over claims that management had been outsourcing their well-paid jobs out of state and overseas.

The Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association, which represents 14 shippers and terminal operators, denies the allegation. They say they have offered lifelong job security to the 600 or so full-time clerical workers.

via LA Port Union Contract Talks Adjourn Without Resolution Amid 5th Day Of Strike (VIDEO).

Locked-out Crystal Sugar workers reject contract 4th time; dispute would end if deal approved – 12/1/2012 8:22:12 PM | Newser

Contract opponents say the sugar beet processor’s five-year contract offer would cut health care benefits and weaken job security and seniority protections. The company says the offer would raise worker pay by 17 percent over five years when a $2,000 signing bonus is taken into account.

Leaders of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International union said in a news release that the workers voted 55 percent to reject management’s contract offer.

“By now it should be clear that Dave Berg and Crystal Sugar’s management team has no interest in ending a fiscally irresponsible lockout that has been disastrous to farm shareholders, put the federal sugar program in jeopardy, and hurt countless families in the Red River Valley,” said John Riskey, the head of a union local that represents employees at three American Crystal factories.

“It’s time for shareholders to reclaim their company and send management back to the table for real give-and-take negotiations,” he said.

Company officials said in a statement Saturday after learning about the workers’ vote that the package is “solid and generous” and “similar to what we are offering our current employees.”

“We’re finding the pay and benefits included in it are attracting high quality area workers who are now creating a productive and successful new workforce for our Company,” the statement said. “The Company continues to move forward and focus on running our business, processing beets and delivering sugar to our customers.”

The lockout began in Aug. 1, 2011, and affected about 1,300 workers at plants in Drayton and Hillsboro, N.D., and Minnesota factories in Moorhead, Crookston and East Grand Forks. More than 500 of those workers have since left, said Brian Ingulsrud, an American Crystal vice president.

The company has used replacement workers to continue operating the plants.

Moorhead, Minn.-based American Crystal is a cooperative owned by about 2,800 sugar beet growers. It is the nation’s largest sugar beet processor, selling 90 percent of its production to industrial customers, including candy makers, bakeries and breakfast cereal makers.

The lockout began after 96 percent of the workers voting on the company’s contract proposal rejected the offer on July 31, 2011. In subsequent ballots, 90 percent of the voting workers turned down the proposal in November 2011, and 63 percent rejected it in June.

In October, the AFL-CIO called for a boycott of Crystal’s products. Some of the company’s sugar is sold in grocery stores under Crystal’s own label. It is sold as “Market Pantry” sugar in Target Corp. stores in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

via Locked-out Crystal Sugar workers reject contract 4th time; dispute would end if deal approved – 12/1/2012 8:22:12 PM | Newser.

Sappi mill | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

 

United Steelworkers Local 11-63 members voted Tuesday to authorize a strike at Cloquet’s Sappi Fine Paper mill.

The vote doesn’t mean that workers will strike, but authorizes union leaders to call a strike if they believe one is needed as the union and company try to reach a contract agreement.

The company said it is offering a very competitive package.

“At a time of so much industry uncertainty, including bankruptcies, mill closures and layoffs, we are disappointed that our employees would risk a potential strike over the highly competitive, total compensation and benefits package offered by Sappi,” the company said in a news release.

“We are hopeful that our Cloquet employees represented by the USW, on reflection, will ratify the contract,” the release said. “However, in the event the Steelworkers strike, we will fully pursue our legally protected right to operate the mill, and supply our customers and are prepared to do so.”

The USW represents roughly 400 of about 715 employees at the mill, Joanna Rieke, Sappi’s manager of corporate communications, said.

Union leaders could not be immediately reached for comment.

Last year Sappi announced plans to convert the existing kraft pulp mill from making pulp to production of chemical cellulose, a purer form of cellulose that can be made into a fabric for clothing, wet wipes and other consumer products. In June, ground was broken on the $170 million project.

The project is the largest investment Sappi has made in North America in some time, and the largest investment at the mill since the $500 million former Potlatch mill expansion in the 1990s.

The conversion project is expected to be completed in June.

Sappi mill | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

WDIO.com – Sappi: Union Authorizes Strike

Union members at Sappi Fine Paper’s Cloquet mill have authorized a strike, according to the company.  United Steelworkers union leaders were not immediately available to confirm the vote.

The company said the vote happened Tuesday and authorized union leadership to call a strike.  “Even though such a vote is not uncommon, and does not mean a strike will occur, we are very disappointed in the membership’s action, given our fair and competitive contract package,” said Rick Dwyer, Managing Director, Cloquet, Sappi Fine Paper North America, in a press release.

The contract covering nearly 400 workers expired about six months ago.  Dozens of workers held an informational picket at the plant in October, saying the company is requesting employees pay a higher health care deductible.
“The proposal would have split our local right down the middle,” said Brady Nelson, Local 1163 president, in October. “They were proposing to take some retiree benefits away from our members that had less than 15 years of service by the end of this year.”

Sappi said it will fully pursue continued operation of the mill in the event of a strike.  It called its offer “very competitive” and said the company’s $170 million project to convert the pulp mill to specialized cellulose shows a commitment to the Cloquet facility and its employees.

via WDIO.com – Sappi: Union Authorizes Strike.

Sappi workers authorize strike at Cloquet mill | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

United Steelworkers Local 11-63 members voted Tuesday to authorize a strike at Cloquet’s Sappi Fine Paper mill.

The vote doesn’t mean that workers will strike, but authorizes union leaders to call a strike if they believe one is needed as the union and company try to reach a contract agreement.

The company said it is offering a very competitive package.

“At a time of so much industry uncertainty, including bankruptcies, mill closures and layoffs, we are disappointed that our employees would risk a potential strike over the highly competitive, total compensation and benefits package offered by Sappi,” the company said in a news release.

“We are hopeful that our Cloquet employees represented by the USW, on reflection, will ratify the contract,” the release said. “However, in the event the Steelworkers strike, we will fully pursue our legally protected right to operate the mill, and supply our customers and are prepared to do so.”

Union leaders could not be immediately reached for comment.

Last year Sappi announced plans to convert the existing kraft pulp mill from making pulp to production of chemical cellulose, a purer form of cellulose that can be made into a fabric for clothing, wet wipes and other consumer products. In June, ground was broken on the $170 million project.

The project is the largest investment Sappi has made in North America in some time, and the largest investment at the mill itself since the $500 million former Potlatch mill expansion here in the 1990s.

The new cellulose production is expected to start sometime next year.

via Sappi workers authorize strike at Cloquet mill | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

State university faculty strike vote looms as contract talks continue

Pennsylvania higher education officials took a contentious pay cut off the table in contract talks with state university faculty on Friday, but the union said it intends to press ahead with a strike authorization vote next week.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties said the two sides remain at odds on issues including compensation for temporary instructors, health care benefits and online education.

“While there was movement in the new proposal, it was still overwhelmingly concessionary,” the union said in a statement.

During talks in Harrisburg on Friday, negotiators for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education withdrew a proposal for a 35 percent salary cut for temporary, or adjunct, faculty. Instead, they proposed no change in full-time adjunct salaries while freezing the pay of part-time temporary faculty for the life of the contract.

Another negotiating session is set for Dec. 11.

“We’re committed to staying at the table as long as it takes to get a settlement — hopefully very soon,” system spokesman Kenn Marshall said.

Union members have been working without a contract since June 2011. They are scheduled to hold strike authorization votes at each of the 14 state-owned universities on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

If passed, the vote empowers union chapter presidents at every school to call a strike; 10 of the 14 must approve a walkout. There has never been a faculty strike.

The state had initially sought to cut starting salaries for adjunct faculty from about $44,000 to $29,000 per year, which they said was comparable to pay at peer institutions. The union called the proposal “public assistance level wages.”

The state is still seeking to raise health care deductibles and co-payments in order to lower overall premiums for employees and the system as a whole. The change could save $7.5 million per year, according to Marshall.

The union counters that it could cost some members hundreds of dollars extra per year in user fees.

Also in dispute are incentives for distance education. Since 1999, instructors have been receiving extra pay for voluntarily developing and teaching online courses.

State officials argue such classes are so integrated into university life now that they don’t merit additional compensation. The union says the change includes language that could unfairly force instructors to teach online, based on a decision by their department head.

A union committee will meet Nov. 16 in Harrisburg to count ballots from the strike authorization votes. The union represents more than 6,000 faculty and coaches.

The state declined the union’s offer of binding arbitration last month.

About 120,000 students attend the state universities in Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.

Classes for the fall semester are set to end Dec. 7, with finals beginning on Dec. 10.

via State university faculty strike vote looms as contract talks continue.

Raley’s workers on strike after mediation fails – Sacramento Business Journal

A last-ditch attempt to resolve contract negotiations between Raley’s and United Food and Commercial Workers has failed, and workers have gone on strike on Sunday. Here, workers at Nob Hill picket outside a store in Capitola.

Raley’s workers on strike after mediation fails – Sacramento Business Journal.