The North Dakota State Mill was established in 1922, and it’s still going strong today. Around this time each year, the mill reports on its fiscal year, and in 2011 it reported a record profit – 22 percent higher than the record set the year before, and 705 percent more than the mill’s goal of a $2 million. And in 2014, state officials approved an expansion that would make it the largest single milling operation in the country.
However, the mill would not be what it is today if it was not for Agriculture Commissioner Sarah Vogel’s work on the Industrial Commission, which oversees the mill. During her years serving, a dispute broke out between management and the mill’s worker union. For economic reasons, a manager had tried to bust the union, which had represented workers almost since the mill’s beginning. Vogel decided it would be best to speak directly to the workers, so she met with them in the basement of the labor hall. She was surprised at the way they were being treated, and she supported keeping the union.
She had many meetings with the mill manager and the union. They discussed the issue from top to bottom and finally came to an agreement. The union would stay and have more communication with management. The workers would also receive bonuses on years with profits based on a formula that determined their contribution in that year. The mill has been running smoothly since, with workers enjoying hefty bonuses, like they did in that record year of 2011, with more than 11 thousand dollars for the average worker. And the state did well, too – 7.6 million went to the state's general fund.
Sarah Vogel served as the "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Dakota_Commissioner_of_Agriculture" North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture from 1989 to 1997.
Today’s Dakota Datebook was written by Lucid Thomas, drawing upon the book “important voices” by Susan Wefald, documenting women in North Dakota politics.
“Important Voices” by Susan E. Wefald
Fargo Forum, August 22, 2011