For human rights’ sake, Crystal should yield

Nov
30
2012

The North Dakota Human Rights Coalition hopes that American Crystal Sugar will decide to recognize the dignity and rights of its workers by ending the lockout immediately.
By: Barry Nelson and others

FARGO — On Dec. 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the committee that developed the declaration, and the U.S. was an original signatory to the document, along with 47 other nations.

According to the declaration, workers’ rights are human rights. Indeed, Article 23 states, “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.”

On this 2011 Human Rights Day, the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition calls on American Crystal Sugar Co. to stop violating the human rights of its 1,300 locked out workers.

The declaration says that every person has “the right to just and favorable remuneration, ensuring for everyone and his or her family an existence worthy of human dignity.” Crystal Sugar employees have worked long and hard for that company — many for 10, 20 even 30 years.

And there has been no complaint about the quality of their work. According to the company’s annual report, Crystal Sugar earned $805 million in net proceeds for the 2011 fiscal year.

At the same time, Crystal Sugar executives are proposing changes to health insurance coverage that would more than double workers’ maximum out-of-pocket costs for family coverage. Because the workers refused to accept these proposals, management locked them out on Aug. 1 rather than continuing to negotiate with them.

We are particularly concerned about the Crystal Sugar workers who were employed in North Dakota factories, for they are not even eligible for unemployment compensation. Because of Crystal Sugar’s action, these workers are suddenly without ANY remuneration or compensation, without the means to support themselves and without the dignity of their work.

At a time when the compensation of Crystal Sugar’s CEO, David Berg, has risen to $2.4 million, and the income of Crystal’s chief financial officer, Thomas Astrup, has reached $964,000, it is unconscionable that members of our communities are being denied the right to work, protection against unemployment, an income to ensure an existence worthy of human dignity and the chance to protect their interests.

Responding to the horrors of World War II, the Declaration of Human Rights asserted, “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”

The North Dakota Human Rights Coalition hopes that American Crystal Sugar will decide to recognize the dignity and rights of its workers by ending the lockout immediately.

Barry Nelson, Amy Phillips, JoNell Bakke, Susan Peterson, Ellen Dunn and Lillian Jones

The writers are members of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition’s board.