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Negotiations Between American Crystal and Union Workers Resume - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Negotiations Between American Crystal and Union Workers Back on the Table

The End of the American Crystal Lockout?

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American Crystal Sugar and union workers are 10 days away from meeting for the second time and locked out workers says they're cautiously optimistic.

It's a lockout that began more than two months ago. American Crystal Sugar union members are hoping a second meeting with the company will finally end it.

A federal mediator will be coming on October 24th to help with contract talks. A time and place has not been disclosed.

It took nearly two months for American Crystal and union workers to agree to talk again, which is why some say this time they'll be taking a different approach.

"It's been hard for me because I'm getting towards the end of my career time," says Alpha Bietz, a union worker. 

Bietz never thought her three decades with American Crystal would end like this. She plans to retire in a few years.

"I didn't feel that this is the way I was going to end my career being out here picketing for this long of a time," she says.

Bietz hopes the long lockout will be over soon after a second meeting with the company to discuss a new contract offer. The union rejected its initial offer with a 17-percent raise in five years over it's lack of job security.

About 1300 workers have been locked out since August 1st. After 75 days, some say it's time for both sides to reach a compromise.

We did not hear back from the company about the negotiations but union representatives say they have made significant changes to their proposal. It's a give-and-take approach some workers say is necessary this time.

"We're cautiously optimistic that something is going to happen," says Linda Rosaasen, who has also worked for the company for more than 30 years. "We want to work."

"I think the first time around was more like an ultimatum. The company says take this or...and that was about it," says Bietz.

But Bietz says knowing a second meeting is set to go makes sitting outside on this cold day a little easier, while she wishes it'll be one of her last.

While union representative Mark Froemke could not tell me details about their new proposal, he did say job security and health care costs are still two important issues they need to stand firm on.

But overall, union workers say there needs to be a solution soon.

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