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Battle Lines Drawn As J.R. Simplot and Teamsters Local 120 Conti - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Battle Lines Drawn As J.R. Simplot and Teamsters Local 120 Continue to Square Off

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The J.R. Simplot Company and members of the Teamsters Local 120 Union have drawn their battle lines and continue to square off.

The Union members today overwhelmingly voted down some new changes to their contracts this afternoon and say they will continue to walk the picket line 24/7. The Union’s contract expired June 1st. They were hoping for a new deal, but they say it never came.

“We’re all just moms and dads, brothers and sisters,” explains Melissa Briseno, a current employee. “We all just want to go home to our families at night.”

Briseno tells me the length of workdays is part of what’s driving a stake between J.R. Simplot and its current Union employees. Right now, the employees on strike say they face uncertainty each time they punch their timecard.

“What we want to know is when we get to go home. If someone doesn’t come in for the next shift to relieve us, do we stay their shift and then again for our shift? So we’re looking at 16, 18, 36 hours,” says Briseno.

Briseno also told me that many of the picketers have been struck by cars and punched by contractors. She shared a cell phone video with me showing a black car spinning its tires and screaming through the picket line, narrowly missing her and her child. One man, who wanted to remain anonymous, showed me where he was hit in the face. Another man showed me scars after he says a car hit and then dragged him along the street. The picketers say numerous police reports have been filed with Grand Forks PD whenever an incident occurs.

An official statement from Doug Cole, Director of Company Marketing and Communications for J.R. Simplot reads:

“Simplot is disappointed that Teamsters Local 120 has voted to continue striking at our Grand Forks plant despite our willingness to engage in constructive dialogue to get everyone impacted back to work. We remain optimistic that a resolution can be found, but will proceed with our plant business operations in order to satisfy customer demand.”

This statement is in stark contrast to what the picketers told me. They echo Briseno’s statement, saying all they want is to be treated like a person, not a number. At the end of the day, they just want to go home to their families.

“Now we work our hearts out here: blood, sweat, tears the whole nine,” says Briseno. “We just want to be able to go home and be normal.”

The J.R. Simplot facility in Grand Forks supplies many restaurants and food service companies all throughout the eastern half of the country. The company says they will proceed with production as normal despite the ongoing mediation between the two sides.
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