Union intransigence and unrealistic expectations at Hostess Brands have forced the bakery to shut its doors permanently and throw 18,500 people out of work. So much for Big Labor caring about the little guy.
A down economy and two restructurings in three years left Hostess, maker of Twinkies and Sno Balls, in dire fiscal straits. The company warned its workers, union and nonunion, to make concessions or everyone would go down in a liquidation.
Instead, one union, the AFL-CIO-affiliated Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International (BCTGM), imagined the company was bluffing and went on strike.
The decision contrasted with the majority of the workers who didn’t delude themselves. The Teamsters, hardly pushovers, issued this statement:
“Teamster Hostess members and all Hostess employees should know this is not an empty threat or a negotiating tactic, but the certain outcome if members of the BCTGM continue to strike. This is based on conversations with our financial experts, who, because the Teamsters were involved in the legal process, had access to financial information about the company.”
That didn’t matter to the striking union, whose 5,000 members pull in as much as $22 an hour plus medical benefits, get nine weeks of paid leave and a company pension. It ignored the warning and Nov. 15 deadline and now will take 100% losses on salaries and benefits instead of the 8% requested by management. Some union brotherhood — the bakers’ action took their fellow workers down with them.
Yet the sense of unreality was palpable among the bakers and the union leaders who represent them. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka declared that Hostess’ problems were caused by “Bain-style Wall Street vultures” making “themselves rich by making America poor.” It’s a nice analysis while the barn is burning, but the reality is workers losing their jobs and living on blame is even poorer sustenance than living on Twinkies.
When are unions going to start caring about real jobs and real workers?