MOORHEAD — This is in response to a letter to the editor published in the Aug 5 edition of your paper.

The letter was written by Paul Cline. In his letter, he defended the management of American Crystal, stating the current lockout is solely the fault of the union workers.

Let’s get some things straight — the union vowed to work under the current contract and not go on strike while negotiations were taking place, but good faith negotiations never happened. ACS management contracted for replacement workers long before that contract ended. In the eleventh hour, ACS management put forth its “best and final” offer that they had to have known would be unacceptable to the employees.

The contract was voted down by 96 percent of union members, the employees were locked out and in rolled the replacement workers. Cline argues that the law of supply and demand justifies the actions of ACS management and implied that the “foolhardy” employees should have known the “harsh reality” of this law.

He goes on to say if an employee’s “skill set is redundant or easily replaceable, you are expendable.” But what if ACS’s product is easily replaceable? ACS owes its success and big profits to the U.S. government’s sugar program. This program prevents foreign-made sugar from flooding the U.S. market through the use of import quotas and high tariffs. Doesn’t this government intervention fly in the face of the law of supply and demand?

Following Cline’s supply-and-demand logic, shouldn’t ACS itself be rendered “redundant” and “replaceable?” Isn’t ACS benefitting from a policy that is distorting the sugar market? Doesn’t the “harsh reality” of supply and demand require the U.S. market to be flooded with cheaper foreign sugar?

Cline seems to take offense at the union for trying to distort the market, but the company itself relies on market distortions on a much larger scale. So, before these oh-so-wise free traders defend the actions of ACS management in the name of “supply and demand,” they better consider that the company itself exists and thrives largely by avoiding direct competition with cheap foreign sugar.

The U.S. sugar program is a good example of the “P” word — protectionism. Unfortunately, the sugar program is a rare example of government policy effectively protecting a domestic industry — an industry that produces a high-quality product and many decent paying jobs. Imagine if this type of protection had been extended to other U.S. industries that have left our shores and gone to authoritarian countries like China. Textiles and electronics come to mind. It is important that we support policies like the sugar program and oppose unfair “free trade” agreements.

And it is extremely important that we support the hard working union employees of ACS in their struggle for a fair contract. After all, if protectionist policies are not helping the American worker, then what good are they?

source: grandforksherald


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