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Vol. 76/No. 18      May 7, 2012

(front page)
Union leader framed up in
battle against sugar bosses
3rd stalwart targeted by cops in lockout struggle
Vicki Ripplinger
Picket line confronts scabs outside American Crystal Sugar’s plant in East Grand Forks, Minn., March 28. Some 1,300 workers in Midwest have been locked out by company since Aug. 1.

HILLSBORO, N.D.—Scott Ripplinger, a union leader and one of 1,300 workers locked out by American Crystal Sugar Co. in the Upper Midwest, has been framed up on charges of disorderly conduct and lying to the police about a March 5 picket line incident outside American Crystal’s plant here.

The workers, members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union, were locked out Aug. 1 after rejecting American Crystal’s concession contract proposal by 96 percent. Three months later, the union rejected a similar contract by 90 percent.

After the lockout, American Crystal Sugar brought in more than 1,000 replacement workers from Strom Engineering, a scab-herding outfit based in Minnetonka to run its five sugar factories in the Red River Valley—Hillsboro and Drayton in North Dakota and Crookston, Moorhead, and East Grand Forks in Minnesota—as well as two smaller plants in Chaska, Minn., and Mason City, Iowa.

Since late November, the company has hired some scabs from the local region by placing job ads in newspapers.

According to union pickets on duty March 5, a van driven by a female replacement worker approached the picket line at an unusually high speed. “For us it was get out of the way or get your legs broke,” Brian Berg, who was picketing at the time, told the Militant.

Following the incident, Ripplinger filed a report with the police saying the scab driver attempted to injure him and his fellow pickets. On April 3 officers of the county Sheriff’s department arrested Ripplinger at his home. He was released on $400 bond later that day.

Ripplinger was charged in Traill County District Court with misdemeanor counts of giving false information to police and disorderly conduct. Cops claim company surveillance video backs up the scab’s allegation that Ripplinger jumped on the hood of her car and pounded on the window, according to the Grand Forks Herald.

“The scab was driving so recklessly that the only direction Scott could go was up onto her hood to avoid being hit,” said Berg.

Ripplinger’s arrest was splashed as a “crime” story in local papers and TV news in the Red River Valley and the surrounding region.

“The news coverage was a smear job against the union, making all of us look like criminals in the eyes of the public,” Terry Holm, a locked-out worker from Hillsboro told the Militant.

The frame-up of Ripplinger is the third case against union leaders in the nine-month-long lockout by American Crystal Sugar against union members.

Brad Knapper, a member of the union’s negotiating committee locked-out from the Moorhead plant, faces trumped-up felony charges alleging that he “keyed” a replacement worker’s car at the picket line last December.

Brad Nelson, a leader of the union in Drayton and a member of the negotiating committee, is framed up on charges for allegedly spitting on a scab worker during shift change in another incident last December.

Both of these cases are scheduled to go to trial in early May. Ripplinger is scheduled for arraignment on April 25 in the Traill County District Courthouse.
Related articles:
Bangladesh protests demand ‘arrest killer of union leader’
Illinois uranium workers continue fight after lockout  
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