The AFL-CIO endorsed a nationwide consumer boycott of American Crystal Sugar products to begin Monday, Oct. 15, in response to Crystal Sugar’s 14-month lockout of its workers.

The AFL-CIO said the boycott will be called off if the management of Crystal Sugar, which has denied its workers the opportunity to do their jobs, returns to the bargaining table in good faith and concludes a contract.

This consumer boycott is part of the broader labor movement’s continued support for the locked-out workers of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. American Crystal Sugar management has blocked 1,300 workers from their jobs for over a year, denying them incomes and healthcare benefits. The national labor movement endorses boycotts cautiously and only in instances of grave injustice, the federation noted.

American Crystal Sugar is the nation’s largest producer of sugar from beets. Byproducts of the sugar production are sold for animal feed and other uses. American Crystal Sugar is sold under the Crystal Sugar brand and is packaged for retailers to be sold under their brand names. The company has operations in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa.

“The 12 million union families of the AFL-CIO are proud to stand with the courageous locked-out workers who are responsible for American Crystal Sugar’s profitability and previously strong reputation,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. “As we saw with the lockout of the NFL referees, locking out skilled workers who do important, unglamorous work hurts not only the workers, but the bottom line. We hope that this boycott will encourage Crystal Sugar to finally respect its workers, who worked so hard every day to make Crystal Sugar a highly profitable industry leader.”

Trumka continued that “Crystal Sugar workers have been locked out since Aug. 1 of last year because Crystal Sugar’s CEO, after rewarding himself with a 50% pay increase for his union workers’ increased productivity, decided to try to break the workers’ union. [Dave] Berg’s actions have endangered the generation of labor peace that made Crystal Sugar an industry leader. We hope that American Crystal Sugar will return to the bargaining table to conclude a contract and end the corporation’s sliding reputation and bottom line. With good faith by Crystal Sugar’s management, the corporation can return to its previous course of harmonious labor relations and profitability.”

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