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Locked out by Crystal Sugar: ‘I’ve lived here all my life. I don’t want to pack up and move’

Courtesy Scott Aubol
Locked out American Crystal Sugar workers, front row l-r: Scott Aubol and union president Roger Delage. Back row l-r: Charlette Wick, LaVonne Froemke, Susan Sylvester, Tim Prudhomme.

Part 5 in a series

Scott Aubol, 55, has worked at the American Crystal Sugar processing plant in Crookston for 34 years, most recently as pulp dryer foreman. Since Aug. 1, 2011, he and other members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union at five plants, including ones in Crookston, East Grand Forks and Moorhead, have been locked out by management after rejecting a contract offer. He describes what the year has been like:

This has been heartbreaking. In a little town like Crookston with, what, 8,000 people, it’s hard to find work. I’ve lived here all my life. I don’t want to pack up and move.

I’ll say this: We’re doing OK for money. My wife and I put away some money because you never know when the hard times are coming. She’s a secretary at the U (University of Minnesota-Crookston) so we have some money coming in. I have a rental property I rent to a friend of my son’s, and I’m fixing up another. There should be no trouble renting it out – the only trouble would be if a scab wants to rent it from me, so I’m taking my time fixing it up. I’ve also restarted a power-washing business I started with my boy in about 1990 when he was in college to give us something to do together during the summers. We did well, but I got so busy at the factory we had to put it on hold for a long time.

I feel terrible about this lockout. Everyone feels terrible. I lost some friends throughout this, guys who went and crossed the line. Some of my boy’s friends crossed the line and we don’t talk to them either. I went to school with a number of (beet) growers and now we don’t talk. In church, they sit in their part and we sit in ours. This used to be a friendly town where we’d wave to each other, but now you just don’t look up because it might be a grower or someone mad at you for opposing the contract. We were the ones locked out and it’s like it was our fault.

One car lot in town is closing down and another has been bought out. The hardware stores and grocery stores are doing poorly because people don’t spend. The only store that’s doing well is Wal-Mart.

Minnesota Moments 2012There are a lot of scabs living in town. They’re accepted pretty good. When they come into a store, people are nice to them because they might spend a few bucks. We don’t like them, but we have to be respectable. We look at their license plates as they drive into the plant and 80 percent of them are from out of state, so we know they’re taking most of their money out of town.

This thing could still turn around. A lot of us are ready to go back to work. All it will take is a new contract to let us do it.

Tuesday: “Wolf hunting: ‘Every day I feel this weight, this heaviness’ “

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