Union gainsays links between strike, closings

by Josh Sosland
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KENSINGTON, MD. — A decision by Hostess Brands, Inc. to permanently close baking plants in St. Louis, Cincinnati and Seattle was not the result of a nationwide strike against the company, according to the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco and Grain Millers International Union.

The union spoke out a day after the company said it was closing the three plants because of the strike.
In a statement after the closings were announced, the B.C.T.G.M. called the claim “false” and a “desperate attempt to break the solidarity and resolve of striking B.C.T.G.M. members across the country.”

The union cited a company filing earlier this year that included plans to close at least nine of its baking plants. The union said another three plants would be closed because of a planned sale of the Merita division.

More recently, Hostess in October said it would close five plants as part of its reorganization plan.
“The recent claim by Hostess c.e.o. Greg Rayburn that our strike is the reason for the closure of the three bakeries is simply not true,” said Frank Hurt, president of the B.C.T.G.M. “That statement is a continuation of a disturbing pattern by the company of issuing public statements that are erroneous at best and disingenuous at worst.

“Our members rejected the company’s outrageous proposal by 92% in September. Rejection came from every corner of the country. They were being asked to vote on a proposal with massive concessions, knowing that their plant could very well be one of those to be closed.”

Mr. Hurt did not comment on a judge’s decision to nullify the union vote because the B.C.T.G.M. leadership in a Sept. 4 letter made an unsubstantiated claim another buyer would step forward in the event the union voted against the proposal. He also did not respond to an allegation from Mr. Rayburn that the B.C.T.G.M. leadership is “willing to sacrifice its Hostess employees for the sake of preventing other bakery companies from asking for similar concessions.”

Instead, Mr. Hurt said the Hostess union membership was simply fed up.

“Our members are on strike because they have had enough,” he said. “They are not willing to take draconian wage and benefit cuts on top of the significant concessions they made in 2004 and give up their pension so that the Wall Street vulture capitalists in control of this company can walk away with millions of dollars.”

The union challenged the credibility of the current Hostess proposal, noting that earlier concessions were supposed to allow Hostess to allow “capital investment, product development, plant improvement and new equipment.” The union blamed the company’s failure to make these investments on money “squandered in executive bonuses, payouts to Wall Street investors and payments to high-priced attorneys and consultants.”

The B.C.T.G.M. statement appears to suggest the view a Hostess liquidation is inevitable.

“Over the past 15 months, Hostess workers have seen the company unilaterally end contractually-obligated payments to their pension plan,” the union said. “Despite saving more than $160 million with this action, the company continues to fall deeper and deeper into debt. A mountain of debt and gross mismanagement by a string of failed c.e.o.’s with no true experience in the wholesale baking business have left this company unable to compete or survive.”

The union said 24 of the 36 Hostess baking plants are on strike or honoring the strike with picket lines.

“Additionally, B.C.T.G.M. members at one transport facility also are on strike,” the union said. “Company claims that union members are crossing picket lines and maintaining production at striking plants are vastly untrue.”
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READER COMMENTS (1)

By Dan H 11/14/2012 4:43:50 PM
Time for unions in America have come & gone! They have mislead thousands for years to be the one's who have come out financially better than the ones they represent. Kinda reminds you of politicians, maybe that's why they look & talk so much alike. To the union company representatives: you all have talked companies into going out of business, people out of jobs and America into less jobs & part of the problems we as a country face. Yet you want no blame where blame exist...in your laps! Sit down you bunch of fat cats & shut your mouths, you have had your say for years & the time has come for you to shut those forked tongue fat mouths!!!!