Hostess strikers won't yield despite liquidation threat
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Friday, November 16, 2012
11/16/12 at 4:17 AM
Dozens of striking Hostess bakery workers in Tulsa didn't budge Thursday afternoon after a threat by executive management to liquidate the company if the companywide walkout and protest continued.
Workers with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union in Tulsa and nationwide are now waiting to see if Hostess Brands Inc. follows through on a statement made Wednesday to file in bankruptcy court to shut down every factory nationwide and begin proceedings to liquidate the company.
Hostess gave employees a 4 p.m. Thursday deadline, which passed without an end to the strike.
Tulsa's Hostess Wonder Bread plant has 160 workers and has been operating despite the strike.
"We simply don't have the financial resources to survive an ongoing national strike," said chairman and CEO Gregory F. Rayburn said in a statement Thursday.
A spokesman for Hostess said there likely would not be any more updates from the company until Friday morning, when Hostess was expected to begin a process that would lead to liquidation.
Workers have been striking since Saturday over proposed wage and benefit cuts, including an 8 percent reduction in salary and major changes to pension and overtime rules.
Hostess executives say the concessions are necessary as the company tries to reorganize in bankruptcy court after losing $340 million last year.
Hostess is the maker of popular snack foods such as Twinkies and Ding Dongs, as well as the baker of Wonder Bread and other brands.
Workers and union officials say the company's financial problems are due to a string of buyouts, management changes and financial mismanagement, including raises to top executives while employees continued to take pay cuts.
"We gave up everything and we've been doing this for 10 years," said Henry Meredith, a 37-year employee at the plant. "And man, we can't keep doing that."
Hostess has 1,800 employees at 33 factories and other facilities nationwide. It has already shuttered factories in St. Louis, Cincinnati and Seattle since the strike started.
Hostess said it plans to file a motion in bankruptcy court Friday to request a wind-down of operations and ask for a hearing Monday on the matter.
If the proposal is approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Monday, executives say bakeries will begin to permanently close by Tuesday.
As the Thursday deadline approached, company officials said union officials were unwilling to negotiate a deal, even though the Teamsters Union had agreed to concessions.
Likewise, some union members have been pushing the company to sell and accusing Hostess of trying to renegotiate contract terms in order to make the company more attractive to a potential buyer.
Company spokesman Lance Ignon said the availability of Hostess and Wonder Bread products shouldn't be immediately affected, but deliveries could be disrupted by a prolonged strike.
Where does Hostess go from here?
Hostess said it plans to file a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Friday requesting to wind-down the company and sell all of its assets;
Hostess has requested a hearing on the motion for Monday.
If the motion is granted at the hearing, Hostess Brands would begin to close all of its operations as early as Tuesday. The closures will include termination of all employees except small, temporary crews to clean, secure and prepare facilities and other assets for sale.
Original Print Headline: Hostess, striking workers aren't yielding
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380