Among the many frustrations in the months leading up to the abrupt shutdown of Hostess Brands, Inc. was the deafening silence from the company’s union leadership, particularly the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers International Union. Other than an occasional notice lashing out at the company’s management, the union was nearly mute on the specific issues swirling around at the time.
In the months since, the B.C.T.G.M.’s longtime president Frank Hurt has retired, and he has been succeeded by David Durkee, an officer with the union since 1990. In a two-hour interview with the editor of Milling & Baking News on Feb. 7, Mr. Durkee touched on a range of topics, including his background (he is a fourth generation baker), his agenda as the new president of the B.C.T.G.M. and lessons learned from what transpired with Hostess (“We made mistakes, but probably not the ones you are thinking,” he said). The interview will be published in upcoming issues.
It is possible, even likely, some readers will take exception with certain of Mr. Durkee’s perspectives on Hostess and the baking industry. They also will gain a greater sense of the individual leading the B.C.T.G.M., a role easy to caricature during troubled times and in the absence of open communications.
In the wake of the unprecedented Hostess disaster, more open discussion from all quarters in baking should be viewed as a great positive. Hearing differing perspectives about what happened at Hostess may help bakers achieve a most important objective – preventing such an event in baking from ever happening again.