A replacement worker at American Crystal Sugar Co.’s East Grand Forks, Minn., plant was seriously injured last month, suffering severe burns when he was hit with hot liquid that spewed from a tank, according to news reports.
The company has been operating with replacement workers since it locked out its highly trained 1,300 member workforce in August 2011. The locked-out workers are members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) and worked at plants in Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota.
According to the latest report, the injured worker, who the company refused to identify, was in critical but stable condition.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the incident. Last fall, OSHA cited American Crystal for widespread, “high gravity” and “serious” safety violations, including accumulation of combustible dust and failure to lock out equipment during maintenance and repair, and proposed nearly $50,000 in penalties.
Workplace safety experts say that experienced, trained workers who have the protection of a union contract can identify hazards and push for action to correct them and prevent serious and dangerous incidents. They say replacement workers operating at American Crystal facilities may be at much greater risk because of lack of skill and experience and a fear of retaliation for raising job safety hazards.
In a related story, Minnesota union members—including locked-out American Crystal workers—rallied outside Target corporate headquarters in Minneapolis and urged the company to remove American Crystal products from its shelves—the house brand Market Pantry—and honor a consumer boycott of the company. Read more from Workday Minnesota.
Currently the AFL-CIO and the union movement are supporting a boycott of American Crystal Sugar products.