Life

Goodbye, Twinkies: Hostess Shuts Down, Blames Union Strike

Striking workers at Hostess plants might be patting themselves on the back and saying, “Mission Accomplished,” if their mission had been to shut down the business and eliminate 18,500 jobs.

I doubt that was their intent, but it seems to have been the result of their efforts.

The struggling company, which filed for Chapter 11 protection back in January, warned its striking workers that it would file a motion Friday to unwind its business and sell its assets if plant operations didn’t return to “normal levels” by Thursday evening.

I was struck earlier this week by a comment from someone with the union who said the strike wasn’t just about Hostess, but about workers everywhere.

The problem with that kind of thinking is that when you’re dealing with a company that’s already having serious financial problems, that’s not the time to make it about anyone else but the employees at that struggling company. Forget workers somewhere else; get your own finances straight before you try to start saving the rest of the world; then you’d be in a better position to show everyone else how it’s done.

This morning, I saw an interview with a striking worker apparently recorded before Friday morning’s announcement. He talked about all of the workers who were on strike are people who have families and electric bills and car payments.

The five-year contract at the center of the dispute called for an 8% pay reduction in the first year, but then a total of a 4% increase by the fifth year. The result of which would have been, naturally, a 4% net loss to workers over those five years.

No one wants to take a cut in pay. That’s common sense.

However, a salary drop of four percent is better, most people would surely agree, than no salary at all. That, too, is common sense.

For fans of Twinkies, Ding-Dongs and Wonder Bread, there may still be hope: other manufacturers are likely to snap up the brands. So at some point, we may see a return of the popular foods to the shelves.

In the meantime, I just have to wonder if this is really what the striking workers were hoping for. If it was a big game of bluff everyone was playing, it’s clear that some aren’t that great at poker.

8 Comments

  1. I saw interviews with several employees explaining that they had taken cut after cut, lost benefits, etc., to the point that they felt they had nothing to lose – sometimes quality of job does matter and you’re willing to risk no job for what you see as basic needs.  Patrick, the union ALREADY accepted numerous pay cuts, cut hours, lost wages, lost benefits.  You can’t keep bleeding them indefinitely and expect them to take it forever.  I don’t blame the workers at all for striking and trying to hold on to something.  You can only take so much, and at some point you have to say to these companies that you have to take care of your workers and you can’t keep solving your company’s problems on their backs.  The cry of the era seems to always be to blame workers for not taking more cuts, less benefits, and by golly they should just be grateful to have a job.  No, companies have a moral responsibility to take care of their workers that keeps eroding in this era.  I think it is right to fight for that.  Hostess closing may have been inevitable, but it is NOT the workers fault.

    1. otowi33.33 If they felt they had nothing to lose, I can understand them wanting to strike. I would be curious to know, however, how many of them were actively looking for something else before the strike occurred.
      While I don’t want to be unsympathetic, the cry of the era you mention is a cry held by about half of the public. The other half seems to be always against the corporations, as if they’re only ever evil. I don’t believe that either side is entirely innocent.

      1. patricksplace otowi33.33 While the CEO was trying to get them to cut their pay yet again by 8% and benefits by 32%, the CEO gave himself a raise over 300% from 750,000 to more than 2.5 million.  9 other top executives had received raises from 60 to 100% during this time period as well, WHILE the company was filing bankruptcy for the 2ND time. Meanwhile they stopped paying into the employees pension, owing it over 160 million dollars, something their right being stolen from them and something they depend on for their retirement/old age.  So in this particular case, I really do think the 18000 workers making less than $20/hr and even less once you deduct benefits and all their pay cuts, etc., were not to blame here.  During recession and hard times the executives keep on giving themselves raises, and not tiny raises, but massive huge exorbitant raises that there is no justification for.

  2. This article shed some light on why the workers may have behaved the way they did: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-leadership/why-didnt-hostess-workers-believe-the-threats/2012/11/16/0638138e-302f-11e2-a30e-5ca76eeec857_story.html
    I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have accepted the deal, but there had to be reasons they didn’t. It appears that they may not have believed the company when it said it would have to shut down.

    1. otowi33.33 Except for the fact that when you have collective bargaining, and you need to take an aspirin for a headache, the agreement stipulates that you take all of the pills, not just one. 
      But let’s consider a different scenario: you’re a business that’s in the red and already under bankruptcy…you can’t afford to continue going as is, and your employees’ union won’t accept a pay cut. So what do you do, assuming that you CANNOT continue “as is”?

  3. I agree, sometimes it is stupid to draw a line in the sand.
    On the news they interviewed a number of workers who said that they want to go back to work with the 8% cut and they said a 8% cut is better than no job at all.

  4. It’s sad that Hostess is closing its doors. Not a merry Christmas for the 1800 employees.
    I do hope they sell off the brand names and formulas. I do love me some Ding Dongs.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.