In October, American Crystal Sugar—which has locked out its highly trained 1,300 member workforce since August 2011—has been assessed nearly $50,000 in fines by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for widespread, “high gravity” and “serious” safety violations, including accumulation of combustible dust and failure to lock out equipment during maintenance and repair.
American Crystal Sugar has been cited and fined on numerous occasions in multiple facilities for accumulations of the highly combustible sugar dust. High levels of dangerous and combustible sugar dust was cited in the 2008 Imperial Sugar explosion that killed 14 workers at its Port Wentworth Ga., refinery.
Workplace safety experts say that experienced, trained workers who have the protection of a union contract and can identify hazards and push for action to correct them and prevent the kind of horrific accident that occurred at Imperial Sugar. Replacement workers operating at American Crystal Sugar facilities may be at much greater risk because of lack of skill and experience and a fear of retaliation for raising job safety hazards.
The locked-out workers at the American Crystal Sugar facilities in Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota are members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM). Currently the AFL-CIO and the union movement are supporting a boycott of American Crystal Sugar products.