No more Twinkies? Hostess workers strike

November 12, 2012 (CHICAGO)

It seems hard to believe that products many of us grew up with could go away. But that's exactly what Hostess says will happen, sooner rather than later, unless its bakers go back to work.

In the Chicago area, some Hostess workers who remain on the job say they support their colleagues across the country.

Hostess has three plants in Illinois. Only the Peoria facility is officially on strike.

Could this be the end of the Twinkie and the Ho-Ho?

"I'm pretty sure they'll go under," said Hostess baker Melvin Davis. "If people don't go back to work, they'll go under."

At both the Hodgkins and Schiller Park plants, where Hostess's iconic products are made, bakers are not on strike, but they honored others' decision to strike, effectively shutting down production of Hostess products in the state.

Nationally, the strike has affected at least 23 of Hostess's 36 plants.

Monday, Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn said it may be the end of the line for the company.

"We're talking days, not weeks," Rayburn said. "At this stage, at the level they are striking, I don't think the company will survive beyond a week unless these employees decide they want to hold on to their jobs and come back to work."

Hostess filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January. This is the second time the company has done so in the last eight years.

Since January, most of the union's representing Hostess employees have voted to authorize strikes.

The walkout came after the company unilaterally imposed an 8 percent pay cut, as well as cuts in their benefits.

Melvin Davis has been a Hostess baker for 45 years.

"I could go any day. I've got my time in, but it will hurt many people," said Davis.

In Illinois, Hostess employs close to 1,400 workers.

Over 800 work at the Schiller Park and Hodgkins plants.

"We might not have no jobs, but you do what you think is right. So we do what we think is right for us," Davis said.

The first layoffs have already happened. Monday, plant closures in Seattle, St. Louis and Cincinnati were announced.

"It's a very sad situation for employees and their families, because the bakers represent only a third of our employee total," said Rayburn. "You're talking 18,500 employees total added to the 23 million people in this country."

Monday's closures affect about 600 employees.

Hostess says they have enough workers crossing picket lines at about half the affected plants to maintain operations and continue distribution -- at least for now.

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