February 8, 2012: Teamsters are voting nearly unanimously in locals across the country to authorize a possible strike against Hostess Brands, which is threatening to use bankruptcy court to force horrible concessions on some 7,000 Teamsters.
Hostess, which makes and distributes Wonder Bread, Twinkies, Dolly Madison and other labels, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 11, and simultaneously asked the bankruptcy court in New York to tear up Teamster contracts and impose cuts in health care, pensions, wages, and jobs.
The Teamsters and other unions are seeking a solution which puts the company on dry ground based upon sacrifice from all parties, including the banks, and not just workers. The company claims to be interested also in reaching a negotiated solution.
Hostess already unilaterally broke one part of the contract last August when they stopped paying into all the various Teamster pension plans, thus ending the participation of thousands of Teamsters in the Central States, New England, Western Conference, and other pension plans. Despite this action, the union and company have been meeting for months trying to reach agreement and will continue to do so.
The IBT Bakery Conference, in taking a strike vote, informed members that a strike would be the very last resort, to be used only if the company rejects the bargaining process altogether, or gets a judge to tear up the contract. A strike could mean that the company would cease operations; in that event, hopefully other companies would acquire and operate pieces of Hostess. Some Hostess operations are profitable.
Hostess already used bankruptcy once before to extract concessions from Teamsters and the Bakery and Confectionery Union (BCTWGMU), which together represent most Hostess workers. During the 2004-2009 bankruptcy, Teamsters twice agreed to concessions. The current contract was negotiated while the company was in that prior bankruptcy. This go-around, they filed in New York, where the court is considered most favorable to using bankruptcy to undermine union contracts.