Fallout from Hostess Brands’ decision to cease operations has extended to about 20 union workers in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, who face layoffs as the bankrupt baker begins liquidating its assets. Hostess’ bakery outlet stores, which sell day-old Wonder Bread, Twinkies and other Hostess products, have been shuttering operations gradually since last Friday, when the company announced plans to close after bakery workers nationwide refused to end their strike.
The retail workers in Hostess’ nine bakery outlets in Minnesota and Eau Claire, Wis., are members of Local 12 of the Office and Professional Employees union (OPEIU), and among the 18,500 workers left jobless as a result of Hostess’ demise.
According to Local 12 representative Jennifer Burke, all area outlet stores will be closed by Saturday, but it could take weeks before bankruptcy-court proceedings in New York determine the severance laid-off workers are due.
“It’s all dependent on the court and if they uphold our contracts,” Burke said. “The courts are talking about a wind-down period, but what’s left to wind down when they’ve already closed our stores? The notice is a little late.”
Hostess’ efforts to absolve corporate leadership of responsibility for the company’s failure – and lay blame, instead, on its union workers – drew much publicity over the weekend. Unions countered that the real reason behind the company’s downfall is mismanagement – something, Burke says, she has experienced firsthand in representing Hostess workers.
“The funny thing is I went out to each and every location, and I realized right away this company is mismanaged,” she said, pointing to understaffing and unresponsiveness in her dealings with Hostess’ human resources department.
What’s more, the company failed to modernize its product line or its factory equipment, accrued dangerous amounts of debt and lavished enormous pay raises on top executives – while simultaneously demanding steep wage and benefit concessions from its union employees.
Even if Hostess finds a buyer for all or part of its operations, union members would have to re-apply for their jobs, Burke said. “It would be a whole new entity, and the stores would not be union,” she added.
Local 12 members worked at Hostess outlets in New Hope, Burnsville, Willmar, Sauk Centre, Minneapolis, St. Cloud, Maplewood and Mounds View.