Profile: The Union That Took Down Twinkees

We all know it as the labor union that took down snack food company Hostess, but what exactly is the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) and what else has it been involved with recently?

According to its website, the BCTGM was “one of the pioneers of the North American labor movement” that began when the Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union of America was organized in 1886. The Bakery and Confectionary Workers International Union later merged with the American Bakery and Confectionery Workers’ International Union in 1969. In 1978, the Tobacco Workers International Union merged with the Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union of America, which created the Bakery, Confectionary, and Tobacco Union (BC&T).

In 1999, The American Federation of Grain Millers union (AFGM) union, formed in 1936, merged with the BC&T, creating the BCTGM union that exists today.

The BCTGM is under the affiliation of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). The union represents workers for several big snack food companies, which include Hershey’s, General Mills, Kellogg’s and Nestle.

After Hostess announced it would close because of the strike, which the BCTGM pursued despite advice to the contrary from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, union president Frank Hurt said in a statement the union showed “tremendous courage, solidarity and devotion to principle” and was “well aware of the potential consequences of their actions,” which amounted to forcing a large company to close shop and put 18,500 workers out of their jobs.

BCTGM also has called for a nationwide boycott of American Crystal Sugar products in response to the company’s lockout of union employees on Aug. 1, 2011, after the BCTGM turned down an offer that would have given union workers a 13 percent pay raise over five years, with certain benefit cuts in healthcare and seniority.

The BCTGM’s leadership includes Frank Hurt, who has been President of the union since 1994, has been involved in the union’s activities since 1972. BCTGM’s Secretary-Treasurer David B. Durkee is also a lifelong union member, joining the BC&T in 1973.