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American Crystal Sugar's union back to negotiating with plant owners

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MOORHEAD — American Crystal Sugar and its union are back at the negotiating table— something that tore the two sides apart just a few years ago.

The last time the two sides negotiated, a bitter and very vocal lockout went on for 22 months.

The scene looked bitter in 2011, when union workers were forced out of their jobs after contract talks failed.

American Crystal brought in replacement workers and the union vowed to picket outside plants until a contract was in place.

While those efforts dwindled in the nearly two-year long lockout, tension between the two sides stayed until they finally came to an agreement.

Now, the company and the roughly 1,200-person union are trying to negotiate again.

American Crystal has presented four points it wants in the new contract, which include finding reasonable wage and pension increases, eliminating a pay rate for certain shifts, and modifying attendance policies.

They're even offering a $2,000 signing bonus if an agreement is made by May 22.

As for the union, the company says it has submitted 17 proposals.

Union leader John Riskey says they did not submit quite that many, but he declined to comment further, saying they do not want to negotiate in the public eye.

As of now, the two sides have negotiated for two days and have a tentative agreement on an attendance policy.

They'll go back for talks on May 2.

Both sides say they're optimistic about finding common ground.

However, Riskey says the company has previously mentioned the possibility of another lockout if an agreement isn't made by July 31.

Amy Unrau

Amy is proud to be a Red River Valley native and cover stories that matter to her community. She was raised in Hallock, Minnesota and received her degree at the University of North Dakota where she participated in the student run TV show Studio One. In college, Amy met her husband, WDAY’s Jody Norstedt, while interning at WDAZ in Grand Forks. She started at WDAY in April 2014 and is currently WDAY'Z Xtra News at Nine's anchor and producer. Have a news idea? Amy would love to share your story or investigate an issue you’re concerned about.

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