North Dakota Supreme Court Gives Locked Out Crystal Workers Unemployment Benefits


In a ruling that boils down to North Dakota taxpayers subsidizing labor disputes, the North Dakota Supreme Court has ruled that American Crystal union members are entitled to unemployment benefits.

Using some rather tortured linguistic acrobatics, the court’s majority somehow manages to conclude that “work stoppage dispute of any kind” somehow doesn’t mean a lockout.

“We therefore conclude the legislative history of N.D.C.C. § 52-06-02(4) supports this Court’s interpretation that ‘a claimant’s work stoppage dispute of any kind’ does not include an employer initiated lockout,” reads the majority opinion.


It wasn’t a unanimous opinion (read it here). In dissent, Justice Sandtrom wrote that the majority opinion is “inconsistent with the purpose of the legislation under consideration.” Justice VandeWalle called the legislative intent “ambiguous.”

“This is a matter for the Legislature to resolve,” wrote VandeWalle in dissent.

The question is, will the legislature put in place bill to make the legislative intent clear? They should. Unions maintain strike funds to pay their workers during disputes. The unions shouldn’t be able to use unemployment benefits to subsidize their decision to reject a contract.

Rob Port is the editor of, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from 1-2pm weekdays.

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