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MASON CITY, IA — The long disputed contracts between American Crystal Sugar and its employees is coming to an end, after the union voted by a 55 percent margin this weekend and accepted the companies offer.
It’s been almost two years now since American Crystal Sugar in Minnesota, North Dakota and Mason City were locked out, but today, those that stuck around, are heading back to work.
“We’re glad it’s over but it wasn’t what we wanted to happen; it didn’t need to take this long,” said Tom Johanns, Union leader.
Since 2005, workers have been upset about the proposed changes to seniority policies, health insurance and other contract issues.
The last contract for American Crystal Sugar was put on the table back in August of 2011, to the disappointment of union workers still looking to negotiate.
They finally accepted the offer, with no changes, over the weekend.
“They offered us a contract and if we didn’t sign it we had to leave the property. There was nobody in the union that could work in the plant if there wasn’t a signed contract,” said Tom.
For employees, it’s been more than a year and a half since they’ve been able to work for the company and since many have either retired or found new jobs, some employees believe saying goodbye to those dedicated workers is the biggest loss of all.
“American Crystal sugar lost 600 good employees. They know how to make sugar, they knew their jobs well. We made them a lot of money in the last years and now they’re going to have half temporary people and half union members. So time will tell how things fair there,” said Tim Enderson, ACS worker.
While a re-employment plan has not been set yet for those returning to work, Tom and other employees are confident they will be back soon, although it will come at a cost.
“Now I feel happy and I’m sad. I’m happy for my fellow employees that they got to come back in here after the 25 years of work experience in there and get back to their normal routine, but now I’m sad for these men in here who are going to be visiting Iowa workforce here in a couple of weeks,” said Tim.
For those returning to work, they say it’s been a long time coming. Something that union workers say in the end was far less about getting the contract they deserved, and more about supporting their families.