Teamsters to members: Prepare for liquidation
by Josh Sosland
WASHINGTON — In a Nov. 13 memorandum to its Hostess members, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters warned that a liquidation is imminent if the strikes at Hostess Brands, Inc. continue.
The update underscored a number of ways in which the Teamsters are at odds with the other major union at Hostess — the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers International Union (B.C.T.G.M).
For starters, communications between the two unions have been lacking, the Teamsters said.
“Teamster Leaders were not informed by the B.C.T.G.M. of its actions that began on Friday,” the Teamsters said.
Members of the B.C.T.G.M. went on strike Nov. 9, resulting in the shutdown of more than half of the 36 Hostess baking plants.
The memorandum was issued by the Teamsters in response to the Nov. 12 announcement by Hostess it was permanently closing three of its plants.
A pessimistic view of negotiation prospects was offered by the Teamsters.
“In interviews Hostess claims B.C.T.G.M. leaders have not returned calls for many weeks,” the memo said.
In offering the update, the Teamsters defended its members’ decision to vote in favor of management’s reorganization plan, an outcome that did not occur with the B.C.T.G.M. vote.
“We have said it consistently throughout the process that Hostess could not survive any serious labor disruption,” the Teamsters said. “That opinion was formed based on extensive financial and legal review by our expert financial and restructuring advisers (some of the same advisers that worked on President Obama’s Auto Task Force to save GM and Chrysler) over the past 16 months.
“Given that likely outcome Teamsters National Negotiating Committee decided that it best to let Hostess members determine their fate in a democratic manner by voting the terms of the Final Offer. That secret ballot voting, monitored by a third-party election firm, resulted in a 53% acceptance of Hostess’ Final Offer. Four other unions have ratified contracts with similar terms.
“It’s unclear whether the goal of the Bakers strike is to force Hostess to negotiate or just put Hostess out of business.”
Sources have indicated the B.C.T.G.M. vote was not conducted by a secret ballot.
In the memorandum, the Teamsters acknowledged that Hostess workers have good cause for frustration, a sentiment that has been conceded by interim chief executive officer Greg Rayburn.
“We recognize this is a tough position for all Hostess workers — Hostess management over the years has done nothing to build confidence that it can manage the business successfully,” the Teamsters said. “But a majority of Teamster members, based on reviewing the final offer and listening to our restructuring experts and Teamsters leaders, believe the management changes and increased oversight and governance controls contained in the ratified final offer provide the only chance to preserve jobs at Hostess.”
Ultimately, the Teamsters warned its memberships to brace for the worst if the B.C.T.G.M. walkout does not end promptly.
“Teamster members at Hostess need to be prepared for the likely outcome of a Hostess liquidation should the strikes continue,” the update said.