BY DAVID AVERILL Editor, Editorial Pages
Sunday, November 25, 2012
11/25/12 at 3:10 AM
When I first read about the bakers' union strike against Hostess Brands, and the company's threat to close all of its bakeries nationwide, I thought I might write a light-hearted column urging President Obama to step in and use his authority under the Taft-Hartley Act to stop the strike in the national interest.
After all, I would ask in a light-hearted way, isn't the possible disappearance of Twinkies and Sno-Balls from our convenience store shelves a grave concern worthy of federal intervention?
There are lots of precedents for presidents to step in and halt strikes when it is in the national interest - some of them long before Taft-Hartley was enacted in 1947.
Rutherford B. Hayes, in 1873, quelled a strike against the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in West Virginia. Twenty years later Grover Cleveland sent federal troops to stop a strike against Pullman, the company than manufactured railroad sleeping cars.
Teddy Roosevelt, in 1902, forced the coal industry to settle a strike using an arbitration committee that he appointed.
But Harry Truman was the king of strike-stopping. Truman vetoed Taft-Hartley when it was passed by Congress in 1947, but his veto was overridden and the measure became law. Then he invoked it 12 times, sending troops to end strikes against railroad, coal and steel companies. At one point he even ordered troops to operate the railroads.
More recently, Ronald Reagan ended a strike by the air traffic controllers by simply firing them all.
Surely, I would posit in my light-hearted and hopefully humorous fashion, the potential inability of American consumers to find Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes in their grocery stores and vending machines is as serious a threat to the national interest in 2012 as a crippling railroad strike was back in 1947.
Comparing a possible Sno-Ball shortage to a shutdown of the coal industry would be an ironic comment on Americans and their love of snack foods.
Then, in the same edition of the paper that reported on the Twinkies strike, I found another article, this one about the runaway rise of Type 2, or adult-onset, diabetes in the United States and especially in Oklahoma.
According to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every state in the union has seen an increase of Type 2 diabetes over the past 15 years. The median increase in the states and Puerto Rico was 82 percent.
But in Oklahoma the increase was far, far greater - an astounding 226.7 percent. Nearly one in 10 Oklahomans now suffers from diabetes. Or at least one in 10 know they have it; the numbers don't include people who have diabetes and don't know it. In 1995 only three Oklahomans in 100 had diabetes.
The reasons for this increase are well-known: poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle. The poor eating habits include consumption of high-sugar, low-nutrition junk foods. Does that sound like a description of Twinkies and Sno-Balls?
As for sedentary lifestyle, a state Department of Health survey in 2009 found that nearly a third of adult Oklahomans get no exercise outside of work.
When I was growing up in the 1950s the big advertising pitch for Hostess Cupcakes and Sno-Balls was the "surprise inside." That was a reference to the creme filling, although after your third or fourth Sno-Ball it stopped being a surprise.
It turns out that the "surprise inside" wasn't the creme filling but the rise of an overweight, inactive and unhealthy America.
Twinkies, by the way, are not going away, regardless of what happens to the Hostess company. The brand is too valuable. Companies are already lining up to buy it.
I'm glad I rethought my original, frivolous column idea.
David Averill 918-581-8333