Union initiates strike against Hostess Brands
by Eric Schroeder
KENSINGTON, MD. —Members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (B.C.T.G.M.) went on strike today against Hostess Brands, Inc. The B.C.T.G.M. said workers at other Hostess plant locations are honoring picket lines established by striking local unions, and more plants may strike or honor the strike in other Hostess locations within the coming days.
The union initiated the strike in response to the company’s imposition of a contract that was rejected by 92% of the union's Hostess members in September.
“Hostess Brands is making a mockery of the labor relations system that has been in place for nearly 100 years,” said Frank Hurt, president of the B.C.T.G.M. “Our members are not just striking for themselves, but for all unionized workers across North America who are covered by collective bargaining agreements.”
In a Joint Plan of Reorganization and related Disclosure Statement filed in October by Hostess with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, the company included detailed information regarding labor agreements, the treatment of claims and interests, the company’s business plan, and events leading up to and during Hostess’ Chapter 11 cases. Among other things, the plan states that Hostess’ union employees will be subject to an immediate 8% wage cut in year one, with modest increases in the years to follow, as well as a 17% reduction in health and welfare benefits. Hostess also will withdraw from multi-employer pension plans (MEPPs) followed by a freeze on pension contributions for two years and reduced contributions thereafter.
“Our members have fought hard for decades through the collective bargaining process to build a decent standard of living for themselves and their families,” Mr. Hurt said. “The deplorable actions taken by Hostess would take our members back to the workplace standards of the 1950s.
“Our members have now said no to Hostess and the Wall Street investors in the only means available to them, the strike. The B.C.T.G.M. International Union stands in full and uncompromising support of our striking members.”
Responding to the B.C.T.G.M. announcement, Hostess maintained its stance that a strike will only lead to the wind-down of the company.
“A widespread strike will cause Hostess Brands to liquidate if we are unable to produce or deliver products,” Hostess said. “If that’s the case, the company will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,300-member workforce and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders.
“We urge our employees to remain on the job to rebuild the company. Sixty-four per cent of our workforce is composed of non-union employees and employees represented by unions that ratified our proposals for modified collective bargaining agreements. We believe they have earned the right to rebuild Hostess.
“We know the concessions are tough, but it would make more sense for unhappy employees to simply leave the company voluntarily than to strike and cause the company to close down, forcing everyone to lose.