One week after members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) International Union launched a nationwide strike against Hostess Brands, the hedge fund that owns the company laid off all its workers and placed the company in liquidation.
Workers hit the bricks November 9 after rejecting by a 92% to 8% margin in September the company’s offer that would have reduced wages and benefits by between 24% and 32%. This offer was made despite the fact company executives received pay increases as well as bonuses, according to the union. Following the rejection of the contract, Hostess – which filed for bankruptcy protection in January, the second time since 2004 – received a decision from the bankruptcy court to unilaterally impose its offer.
“Hostess Brands is making a mockery of the labor relations system that has been in place for nearly 100 years,” declared BCTGM President Frank Hurt. “Our members are not just striking for themselves, but for all unionized workers across North America who are covered by collective bargaining agreements.
“Our members are on strike because they have had enough. They are not willing to take draconian wage and benefit cuts on top of the significant concessions they made in 2004 and give up their pension so that Wall Street vulture capitalists in control of this company can walk away with millions of dollars,” added the BCTGM president.
Workers at the American baking giant produce Wonder Bread, Twinkies, Ding-Dongs and other iconic brands. The union, which is an affiliate of the MTD, is asking consumers to not purchase these products until workers receive a fair settlement to their grievances.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stated, “What’s happening with Hostess Brands is a microcosm of what’s wrong with America, as Bain-style Wall Street vultures makes themselves rich by making America poor. Crony capitalism and consistently poor management drove Hostess into the ground, but its workers are paying the price.
“This is wrong. It has to stop. It’s wrecking America!” Trumka thundered.
According to a BCTGM spokesperson, over the past 16 months, “Hostess has ceased making contractually obligated payments to the Hostess workers’ pensions and has pocketed approximately $160 million—money earned by and owed to its dedicated workforce.”
The BCTGM represents the largest number of the 18,000 workers – many of them members of other unions – affected by the company’s decision to cease operations.