Friends and neighbors, while much has been written about the financial losses endured by the American Crystal Sugar Company and the families of the 1300 dedicated employees it chose to lockout, much should be said about the stark contrasts in the actions of both sides from a moral aspect, during this Easter season.
On one side, American Crystal Executives, during prosperous times, implemented a strategy, that in the CEO’s own words, (GF Herald, Dec 1st, 2011) had been “mapped out long, long ago and shared with the board in great detail.” It would first threaten its dedicated employees with poverty, and then put some of them into it by locking them out and withholding work from them, all to leverage concessions in the contract. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”
On the other side is the BCTGM Union, whose members gave over 20 concessions during contract negotiations, and also offered to keep working under the old contract until all differences could be resolved.
The Union stands in opposition to the American Crystal Executives unnecessary lockout and their proposals that would impede new hires opportunities to achieve year-round status, stifle workers voices in the workplace by gutting grievance procedures and reduce job security, to name only a few.
The Union clearly understands that the fair contract they seek to gain through good-faith negotiations with the company will not only benefit them, but also the company. The good contract they seek will also benefit old members who have crossed the line and new members it would make of replacements that choose to stay when the lockout ends. That, my friends, demonstrates “love thy neighbor as thyself” and it also demonstrates forgiveness.
Union ideals parallel Christian values demonstrated by a statement by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops entitled The Dignity of Work and Workers Rights. “In a marketplace where too often the quarterly bottom line takes precedence over the rights of workers, we believe that the economy must serve the people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected: the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to organize and join Unions, to private property and to economic initiative. Respecting these rights promotes an economy that protects human life, defends human rights and advances the well-being of all.”