Twinkies could be history if Hostess strike is not settled

November 15, 2012 (SCHILLER PARK, Ill.)

Workers at several Hostess bakeries walked off their jobs earlier this week. The company gave them an ultimatum: return to work by the end of the business day Thursday or the company will be liquidated.

The workers did not return.

Hostess officials said Thursday night they are still assessing the situation and will wait until Friday to decide whether to shut the company down.

Negotiations were still under way Thursday morning with both sides trying to end their dispute. At issue is cuts in pay, healthcare benefits and employee pensions.

While the union says it is not right for the company to maintain its viability on the backs of workers, company officials said they were doing everything in their power to try and keep Hostess open.

Hostess workers at the company's Schiller Park plant were among the roughly 1,400 Illinois employees refusing to cross picket lines after workers at other plants went on strike.

The national strike effectively shut down production. In a statement, Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn said it is something the makers of iconic products like Twinkles and Ding Dongs could not survive.

"We simply do not have the financial resources to survive an ongoing national strike," Rayburn said.

The strike comes as Hostess tries to emerge from its second bankruptcy. The company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January.

The walkout came after Hostess imposed a court approved 8-percent pay cut. In addition to the pay cut, the contract calls for a 17 percent cut in health benefits and the elimination of pension benefits starting next year. Since then most of the unions representing Hostess workers voted to strike.

In a statement released Thursday, BCTGM International Union President Frank Hurt said, "Our members have fought hard for decades through the collective bargaining process to build a decent standard of living for themselves and their families. The deplorable croons taken by hostess would take our members back to the workplace standard of the 1950s."

Over 800 men and women work at the Schiller Park plant and in Hodgkins.

Officials said earlier Thursday that if the strike is not settled, they would go to bankruptcy court Friday to make a motion to begin a "wind down." They are thinking that hearing could happen Monday. If that motion is granted, Hostess could close down all its operations by Tuesday.

Meanwhile Thursday, many flocked to Hostess's River Grove outlet store looking to buy the iconic products made by the company, which was founded more than 80 years ago.

Eighteen-thousand Hostess employees would be terminated and the company's assets would be liquidated.

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