Minnesota based American Crystal Sugar employee lockout exposes the untenable nature of union contract negotiations. Yesterday, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union’s final charge against American Crystal Sugar was dismissed. BCTGM filed four charges against American Crystal Sugar’s for failing to bargain in ‘good faith’. All charges were denied by the Minnesota National Labor Relations Board.
A quote from John Riskey, president of BCTGM local, on the dismissal of the unions charges against American Crystal Sugar demonstrates current union tactics. “But we will appeal,” Riskey said. “We’ve been building our case all along to take to Washington, D.C. and we will be appealing to Washington, D.C.”
Unions know if their appeal reaches Obama’s NLRB, the employer will be forced to make concessions. The pro-union bias of the NLRB is creating unnecessary conflict in communities, hurting both employers and employees. American Crystal Sugar had operated for 30 years without a labor impasse. However, in the current political climate, union officials do not need to negotiate reasonable contracts. Appeals and court decisions are far more effective means to success.
During the contract negotiations, BCTGM union officials’ strategy was transparent. BCTGM from the get go would not consider American Crystal Sugar’s offers or offer a counterproposal. BCTGM was not satisfied with an 8 percent increase in wages in the first year of the contract or 9 percent increase during the remainder of the five-year contract. The employee’s would continue to receive their defined-benefit plan pensions with an increase in payments. Defined-benefit plans are a rare commodity these days in any line of work. In an economy with high unemployment, how many workers would consider job security and a raise not bargaining in “good faith?” On the other hand, Big Labor has Obama’s NLRB, allowing union officials to stick their noses up at pay raises.
The union’s complaints about the offer are just as unreasonable. American Crystal Sugar raised employee contributions to health insurance. This is not an affront to the workers. According to The Kaiser Family Foundation, the average price of family health insurance plans has risen 9 percent in 2010. Another unwieldy complaint is the union mandating American Crystal Sugar not to contract any work done by union members. Similar to the Boeing complaints, union officials believe they make management decisions. Under Obama’s NLRB, union officials do decide where plants are built or who is allowed to be employed.
Labor conflicts such as the current American Crystal Sugar dispute will continue to mount without NLRB reform. The bias of Obama’s NLRB manufactured a labor impasse, lockout, persistent union protests, rumblings of a corporate campaign, and general labor-management mayhem for American Crystal Sugar and employees. But this is what happens when the federal government gives incentives to unions to prolong disputes, while absolving unions from responsibilities under the law. Eventually, unwarranted union appeals will be brought to a friendlier court: Obama’s NLRB.