It’s been a rough few months for labor unions. Changes to laws in Wisconsin and Indiana giving workers more choice when it comes to paying dues to unions have resulted in massive defections from union ranks. In Wisconsin specifically unions failed in the recall of Governor Scott Walker as punishment for pushing labor reforms they disapproved of. Here in North Dakota, too, the unions just took a tough defeat.
For over a year the union workers at American Crystal Sugar have refused to accept a new contract from the company. One of the tactics they’ve tried to get the company to back down is to threaten the sugar program which inflates the price of sugar by managing sugar production and protecting the market from international competition.
“What we have done (in the past) is fought side-by-side with Crystal Sugar and their shareholders and farmers of Crystal Sugar in Washington and lobbied for the sugar program,” Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union President John Riskey told the Grand Forks Herald. “We lobbied labor-friendly Congressional leaders to explain to them what the sugar program does in the Red River Valley and elsewhere where sugar companies are established and told them it creates jobs and good-paying jobs. But right now that is not the case.”
The union also got a bunch of their political allies – including Senators Kent Conrad and Al Franken along with Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton – to threaten the sugar program as well.
So how did it all come out? An amendment stripping the sugar program out of the farm bill failed earlier this week.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not endorsing corporate welfare. I’m not in support of the sugar program. I oppose it, though for free market economic reasons unlike the union which is motivated by spite.
But it is yet another political blow for organized labor which seems to be declining quickly in influence.