The usual suspects put everyone out of work in the Hostess affair…

November 16, 2012

UPDATE: 11-17-12


Here is a new lead to my previous blog in an attempt to add to and correct and clarify what I wrote previously:

Hey, I won’t miss Wonder Bread, or even Ding Dongs, not to mention Twinkies (and what does that phrase “not to mention” mean, when you always go ahead and mention whatever you’re not mentioning?). But it is all very sad that so many people will be out of work, some 18,500 with Hostess filing bankruptcy

It seems over the years the company, which was not always called Hostess, was mismanaged, and at the same time consumer preferences changed to seemingly more healthy food.

The maker of bread and various snack foods grew into a conglomerate, even controlling Colombo Bread of the San Francisco Bay area, thus now putting all those people out of work with the bankruptcy (there had been a previous bankruptcy) and the closure of operations.

Management blamed it mostly on the unions. But some top managers got bonuses even as the company was losing money. And I always wonder how the corporate culture apologists explain that.

I don’t know who all was represented by whom in the union things but apparently while those represented by the Teamsters took concessions, realizing the company was losing money, the Bakers’ union (the Bakers’ union, not its full name, represents more than bakers) held its ground.

Involved in all of this as I read it are the usual suspects — the hedge funds and the quick buck artists, all of whom produce no product or service, just profits for themselves, even as companies lose money and go out of business and people are put out of work.

And let’s don’t forget unrealistic unions, who see no connection between supply and demand and the cost of production versus possible income from products or services.

The original blog post:

I don’t know. Maybe the union overplayed its hand. Hostess told the union bakers and other workers either quit your strike or you will have no job to come back to because we will file for bankruptcy and go out of business.

The deadline was yesterday. The union did not blink. And Hostess has filed for bankruptcy and shut things down. It could be bought by someone else, and I don’t know what power the court has, if any, to forestall things.

Hostess had been in trouble for some time. The market for Twinkies and other sweet pastries has been declining, especially since the Great Recession of 2008, I think.

I first got word of this from a nephew who has spent his whole working life (up until recently) either working in grocery stores or as a route driver delivering everything from potato chips, to bread, to tortillas, and to pastries. That pastry route was his last one. It was not Hostess, but another brand (but I think he did work for Hostess for a time). He told me route sales had drastically declined. Should have kept the tortilla route, I would have thought. He tells me the guy who bought it from him loves it. My nephew is working at a local hospital now, doing housekeeping or something like that. He says the money is good, at least. So there is life after Twinkies.

Don’t know what the union was thinking, except possibly they felt they had nothing to lose since the outfit was going down the drain anyway. Or, maybe — just thought of this — they are positioning themselves for bargaining with whoever might take over the Hostess name. It is hard to believe that legendary brand would just die out.

I am of mixed minds on unions. Even though it seems outrageous that a union would go for more pay and benefits (or even restoring cutback pay and benefits) when a company is not making a profit, that never seems to stop management from getting bonuses and golden parachutes.

All things being equal, I would rather be non-union. I want the work relationship to be between me and my employer, but that does not always work in huge operations. And it is obvious that the business world is taking advantage of labor in hard times.

Union labor can be problematic, however. That nephew of mine spent some time as a supervisor, meaning he was in management, for one of the large bread companies (it might have been Hostess — don’t recall). Anyway he said they knew they had a route driver who was goofing off. But he had to spend a lot of time playing like a detective and following the guy to document it all before they were finally able to fire him.

A further complication when it comes to route drivers is that they are not just drivers but salesmen. It does not work if the guy (or gal) just drives and delivers and punches a clock, I imagine. The drivers have to keep sales up and manage their accounts.

Admittedly I know little about all this. But I am a long-haul truck driver and I am sometimes in the environment and I have that nephew who was directly in it too.

So, on the one hand, as a wage earner I am kind of rooting for the union, and on the other hand I am kind of saying you just can’t bite the hand that feeds you.

You can go into another line of work, hopefully, if the one you are in plays out or just does not have the same reward it once had.


Yes, I know changing lines of work is not always easy or even possible. Been there, done that, and it was not easy for me, just necessary.