Nothing Sweet About Hostess Closure: Workers

“We deeply regret the necessity of today’s decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike,” CEO says

By Staff Report
|  Friday, Nov 16, 2012  |  Updated 9:09 PM CDT
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Hostess makes good on its threat to close after striking workers didn't leave the picket line. Thousands of jobs are lost, as is a decades-old childhood tradition. Emily Florez reports.

Hostess makes good on its threat to close after striking workers didn't leave the picket line. Thousands of jobs are lost, as is a decades-old childhood tradition. Emily Florez reports.

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Hostess Employees Talk Closure, What's Next

After struggling for months to rebuild itself through federal bankruptcy proceedings, the Hostess essentially gave up and decided to sell everything, including its trademarks and recipes, to the highest bidder - subject to a judge's approval.
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Illinois' Schiller Park Hostess location is closing and about 1,400 workers there are out of a job.

Hostess Brands, the makers of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread, is going out of business after striking workers failed to heed a Thursday deadline to return to work, the company said.

The Schiller Park bakery is one of 33 being closed along with 65 distribution centers, about 5,500 delivery routes and 570 outlet stores as part of a company "wind down." Operations have been suspended at all plants.

“We deeply regret the necessity of today’s decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike,” Hostess CEO Gregory F. Rayburn said in announcing the firm had filed a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to shutter its business. “Hostess Brands will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,500-member workforce and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders.”

The closure will include the sale of Hostess, Drakes and Dolly Madison as well as Wonder, Nature’s Pride, Merita, Home Pride, Butternut and Beefsteak.

Illinois workers said they expected this but noted it's difficult to imagine not being here.

"It's a weird feeling after being at a place for 30-something years once they pull the rug out from under you," said worker Abdul Waheed.

Workers who were not on strike still reported to work and were told to clock in and finish the day.

"I'm wondering what's going to happen, but I'm satisfied with my decision to stay out here," said Sal Marena, a BCTGM union member.

"We've been coping with the company with so many concessions -- wages, pensions, insurance -- so that's it, that's enough," said union member Juan Cortez.

Hostess Brands Inc. had warned employees that it would file a motion in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to unwind its business and sell off assets if plant operations didn't return to normal levels by 5 p.m. EST Thursday.

The Irving, Texas-based company had already reached a contract agreement with its largest union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. But thousands of members in its second-biggest union went on strike late last week after rejecting in September a contract offer that cut wages and benefits. Officials for the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union say the company stopped contributing to workers' pensions last year.

The company has 36 bakeries nationwide, including the one in Schiller Park.

Hostess says it does not have the financial resources to survive an ongoing strike and already has permanently closed three bakeries in Seattle, St. Louis and Cincinnati, facilities that employ 627 workers.

The company filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than a decade. Hostess cited increasing pension and medical costs for employees as one of the drivers behind its latest filing.

"We've heard it all before and we just need to do what we've got to do," a striking worker told NBC Chicago. "They know our position so it's their move. But right now we're going to stay out here as long as it takes."

But not all of the employees are in favor of the strike and seem to be taking the company's threat seriously.

"I'm 59 years old. I'd like to get five more years, and I've been working with all these workers all these years and they just don't want to listen. They listen to the union," Marty Raymond said.

The bakeries produce products such as Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread.

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