The federation pledged to aid 1,300 union workers locked out for almost a year.
The national president of the AFL-CIO on Wednesday announced a full-fledged campaign against American Crystal Sugar Co., which has locked out 1,300 union workers since last August.
President Richard Trumka provided few specifics as to what the effort would entail during an afternoon news conference at Minnesota AFL-CIO headquarters in St. Paul, but said the federation wasn't ruling out any possible actions, including a boycott.
Flanked by Crystal Sugar workers as he spoke, Trumka pledged $25,000 to the union representing the workers, and said that funding and other resources from the national AFL-CIO and all international unions would be put into the campaign.
"We pledge to coordinate and support the efforts to highlight American Crystal Sugar's total disregard for its employees," he said, "and to make them a poster child for corporate greed and profit over employees."
Crystal Sugar couldn't be reached for comment late Wednesday.
Workers at Crystal Sugar's five production plants -- three in Minnesota, two in North Dakota -- are represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union. The lockout has become one of the longest work stoppages in Minnesota in decades.
Trumka said options include reaching out to firms that do business with Crystal Sugar, and calling on political allies for support. "There are a number of pieces of legislation that this company really depends on," he said.
The main one is the nation's sugar program, which helps prop up sugar prices with stringent restrictions on imported sugar. Normally, Crystal Sugar's unions lobby with the company and its beet growers in favor of the program. They didn't this year.
Moorhead-based Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative, is the largest U.S. producer of beet sugar, and has been operating with temporary replacement workers since the lockout began.
The company locked out workers after they rejected an offer that called for a 13 percent wage increase over five years, but also cut medical benefits and weakened seniority rights. Workers again rejected the contract Nov. 1. Since then, attempts at negotiations went nowhere, and a third vote was held June 24. But 63 percent of workers voted against the contract.
Staff writer Mike Hughlett contributed to this report. Walker Moskop • 612-673-4265