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It's spreading like wild fire- At noon bakers walked out of Hostess Brands' Lenexa, Kansas bakery and onto the picket line. In the last few hours bakers at the Indianapolis, Columbus, Indiana, and Biddleford, Maine bakeries walked out and joined the strike. Bakers at Hostess' Emporia, Kansas bakery will walk out and join their brothers and sisters on the picket line at midnight, and the strike will probably spread nationwide and completely shut Hostess down on saturday.

Why?

Hostess Brands corporate ancestors- Continental Baking, Interstate Brands, and several smaller bakeries- Were "blue chip" companies, making profits clear through the great depression. But in the past few decades bakeries have been closed and the valuable real estate they sat on sold for short term profits and Hostess pulled out of southern California when workers refused wage and benefit cuts while executives jacked up their salaries. Besides that raw greed, Hostess was grossly mismanaged- it's not uncommon for the company to have a handful of facilities sitting underused in one city when one would do. Hostess' truck fleet is a slow moving disaster, with an average truck age of 18 years. Breakdowns are so frequent that Hostess has been paying multiple six figure truck rental bills.

Then about a year ago Hostess quit making their contractual contributions to the worker's pension plans and filed yet another bankruptcy reorganization. And just before pleading poverty before the bankruptcy court, Hostess executives tripled their salaries.
Hostess then had the gall to ask the court to tear up the union contracts, but the unions fought back, the Teamsters taking the lead and negotiating a less severe concession contract that was narrowly approved by the Teamster Hostess employees.

But the contract had a a provision that was especially troublesome for the bakers, allowing the company to close as many as a dozen of it's surviving 36 plants and sell up to 6, probably to a non-union company. For the Teamsters a bakery closing isn't the end of the world- we still have Teamster drivers delivering Hostess Brands baked goods here, even though the four closest Hostess bakeries have been closed and the closest surviving Hostess bakery is 300 miles away. Truck routes may change a bit, but the adjustments are more manageable for the Teamster delivery drivers than for the bakers. When a bakery closes, hundreds of employees-virtually everyone in the bakery-lose their jobs. And with so many Hostess bakeries already closed, even if their are job openings in other Hostess bakeries, they're often hundreds and thousands of miles away.

So faced with the loss of a third of their jobs and deep cuts in pay and benefits, the bakers rightly rejected the contract. In fact, the bakers at every bakery vetoed the concession contract, in some cases unanimously. Hostess has refused to negotiate, threatening to liquidate the company if the bakers struck. The bakers gave Hostess some time to sober up and settle up, but as their pay and benefits were cut by Hostess this week they had no choice but to strike.

So please support your fellow workers at Hostess who are taking a stand against corporate greed and corruption. Please honor the picket lines- The bakers have honored ours before and will in the future. And while no boycott of Hostess products has been called for, you should check the freshness code of any Hostess Brands (Hostess, Dolly Madison, Drake's, Butternut, Eddy's, Sweetheart, etc.) product you buy- Hostess Brands has no stated plan to wind the company down in an orderly manner. This means that Teamster delivery drivers may be locked out by Hostess Brands and unable to make their delivery rounds and remove stale baked goods as they usually do.

Thanks for your support of the striking Hostess workers!  

Baker's union on facebook

Baker's union website

9:00 PM PT: 11 pm CDT: Peoria Hostess Bakers join the strike!

9:56 PM PT: The strike has spread to Hostess Brands Hodgkins, Illinois bakery.

Sat Nov 10, 2012 at  5:33 AM PT: Overnight, four more bakeries joined the Hostess strike- Orlando, Tulsa, Philadelphia, and St.Louis!


Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 7:38 AM PT: Now a dozen bakeries on strike, they're goin' down too fast to count. in another wonderful example of Hostess mismanagement, reports are that their Billings bakery just sent out a truck with less than 20% of a load into a blizzard. Memo to the driver of that truck: The company might cut off the fuel credit card and strand you like Romney did to his staffers.

Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 11:43 AM PT: Saturday is a traditional bakery down day, and Hostess Brands needs to decide whether it wants to talk with the bakers or shut down tonight. So far all the PR they've put out is a short release after the first bakery went out on strike yesterday. There's been 11 more bakeries struck since with no further response from Hostess... Methinks they're mulling their limited options. Then again, like rats on a sinking ship, Hostess management may be shredding documents and packing their golden parachutes.

The Teamsters have yet to show their cards also- There's some friction between them and the Bakers as the Teamsters barely approved the concession contract the Bakers rejected. Hopefully the Teamsters will put those differences behind them and solidarity will prevail. From what I'm reading on social media from rank and file Hostess Teamsters, that seems to be the case.

 

Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 3:22 PM PT: The strike has now spread to a baker's dozen of Hostess' 36 bakeries. The strike has taken out most all of Hostess' higher volume bakeries except a few on the west coast. The bakers are not striking the older, low volume, and west coast bakeries that Hostess most likely plans to close. Still no announcements from Hostess in the last nearly 24 hours since the first bakery was struck. Nothing official from the teamsters, but it appears that they are honoring the baker's picket lines. About this time the bake has to start for monday's deliveries, so Hostess needs to get back to the bargaining table if they want to survive.

Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 8:09 PM PT: The picket lines are spreading west- Billings bakery just joined the strike!

Originally posted to RuralRoute on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 08:19 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Anti-Capitalist Chat, and Community Spotlight.

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