Union Strike-Showdown Could End In Hostess Shutdown

They are messing with our Twinkies.

Upset over cuts to pensions and salaries brought on by a new collective bargaining contract, employees of Hostess, which makes Twinkies, Wonder Bread and other iconic snacks, are on strike. The workers, members of Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), walked out Nov. 9 to send the message recent changes to their compensation package are “outrageous.”

Hostess promises to liquidate the company if the strike doesn’t cease by end of day today. The company’s CEO Gregory Rayburn in a statement Wednesday said:

We simply do not have the financial resources to survive an ongoing national strike. Therefore, if sufficient employees do not return to work by 5 p.m., EST, on Thursday to restore normal operations, we will be forced to immediately move to liquidate the entire company, which will result in the loss of nearly 18,000 jobs.

Financial issues rising from outstanding debt and pension costs prompted Hostess in January to file for its second bankruptcy since 2004. The company was worth $1 billion at the time it filed but listed $2.5 billion in liabilities. The bankruptcy court granted the contract changes that, according to the union, cut employee salaries by 8 percent and benefits by 27 to 33 percent.  

The workers’ “or else” posture could prove costly this time. Workers must weigh whether a smaller paycheck is better than no paycheck at all. For some Hostess employees, it’s already too late — the company has closed three of its 36 bakeries already and laid off 627 people.

The Teamsters union, which represents Hostess drivers, mechanics, and thrift store employees, has agreed to the new pact. But the Bakers union has proposed its own restructing plan in which Hostess outsources distribution and transportation operations but leaves the Bakers’ benefits and salaries untouched.

Oddly, Bakers Union President Frank Hurst claims:

Our members are not just striking for themselves, but for all unionized workers across North America who are covered by collective bargaining agreements.

It will be interesting to see what the workers choose. The company can’t survive if 30 percent of its workforce remains on strike. There’s nothing here to bargain for really … except the future of Twinkies, Wonder Bread, Ho-Ho’s … and of those workers’ jobs.