An editorial in Wednesday's Orlando Sentinel challenges numerous myths about the end of Hostess and correctly blames the company's downfall on management's assault on working families.
The Twinkie and the labor union, going down together—the story fitted perfectly into a pat journalistic narrative in which unions have done their work (thanks for the eight-hour day, folks!) but now must exit the historical stage.
Unfortunately, reality is not quite so simple. Recently, we learned—from the Wall Street Journal, no less—that the company had diverted payments it was supposed to make to the employee pension fund into other operating accounts. This at a time when finances were tight and management nevertheless decided to give itself more bonuses and salary raises.
This is the new America: Bonuses and stock options for the top brass, pink slips and blame for the working class. Most Hostess employees had taken steep pay cuts over the last few years. One of the major reasons the bakers union went on strike was that the company was not honoring prior pension agreements.
The version we got from the headlines was a little different: Union refuses to negotiate, forces 80-plus-year-old company to shut down.
Don't be mistaken. What happened at Hostess is part of a long, protracted shift in the American workplace. Companies use any means at their disposal, including bankruptcy reorganization, to get rid of unions. Meanwhile, right-wing think tanks and pundits demonize union members as freeloaders and thugs. It has been a decades-long project, and it's been incredibly successful.
The National Labor Relations Board has determined that Hostess didn't play fair in the negotiations with the bakers union. This news was no doubt met with smirks by those who regard the board as just another government entity standing in the way of big business.
Yet for all the bluster about makers and takers, job creators and moochers off society, one group is habitually left voiceless. They are the people who actually perform manual work, the blue-collar employees. They operate forklifts, stand on assembly lines, drive trucks and, yes, put sugary cream into yellow cakes.
Read the entire editorial: Union-Busting's the Secret Filling Inside Twinkie Demise.
“There is much more to this story than ‘the union and Hostess failed to reach an agreement and 18,000 jobs were lost,’” notes Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) International President David B. Durkee. “This union and its Hostess members have been saying for the past decade, that the company’s debt was too high; its machinery and equipment antiquated; its product mix out of date and it’s management too inexperienced in the banking industry to turn this iconic company around."