Saturday 01 Oct 2016

Twinkie Liquidation
Matt Seinberg

It was announced on 16 November 2012 that Hostess Brands Inc., formerly known as Interstate Bakeries, was filing a motion in bankruptcy court. The company wanted to liquidate all its brands and holdings. The reason for liquidation was simple: its main union, The Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers, went on strike because 92 percent of their 6600 members rejected the company’s last contract proposal.

What part of “If you don’t take this offer we will close the company” did the union did not understand? Isn’t it better to have a job with benefits and whatever pension you earned than to have no job with nothing at all?

This is how Hostess responded to the strike vote: "A widespread strike will cause Hostess brands to liquidate if we are unable to produce or deliver products. 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.”

Well, isn’t that a kick in the shorts! Imagine losing a great job producing Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos and Wonder Bread for the unemployment line. I can just imagine someone at the local unemployment office asking one of these members what they used to do. If that person loved any of those sinfully good products, look out. It could be a big, fat rejection of unemployment benefits.

This is how I envision the conversation between Mrs. Smith at the unemployment office, and Wilbur the laid off Hostess employee.

Mrs. Smith: So Wilbur, looking at his application, what did you do for Hostess?

Wilbur: I made Twinkies.

Mrs. Smith: Really? Does that mean you’re one of the Ho Hos that voted to strike and put them out of business and I can’t buy any more of my favorite snack, Twinkies?

Wilbur: Uh, yes Mrs. Smith.

Mrs. Smith: Application for benefits denied!

I can only imagine how many mad customers there are in supermarket shelves, emptying them of all their favourite snack foods from Hostess and Drakes. The thought of no more Wonder Break with its distinctive red, blue and yellow balloon packaging is enough to make a grown adult cry.

It’s been speculated that if the world ended in the mushroom cloud of nuclear war, only a few things would still exist. Hopefully one of those would be humans who took shelter in reinforced bunkers. The others would be Twinkies and cockroaches, both of which would probably be in the shelter with humans.

Even if Hostess products were still on supermarket shelves, they might still be good because their gooey cream filling is impervious to any exterior forces. Twinkies are much like honey, no stale date.

I think some of my favourite snack cakes would be the coconut Sno Balls, chocolate cupcakes, Devil Dogs, Ring Dings, Yodels, Coffee Cakes and Funny Bones. It’s not often that I got to have them, but when I did it was certainly a special occasion.

We all have fond memories of things we did as kids and going to the local store to pick out a favorite snack cake was always fun. I remember when I lived in Spring Valley, NY and I was in 7th grade. There was a little red building across the street from the old junior high school, and all the kids would take their spare change and buy a favorite snack.

Today, those little stores are gone, and now some of our most iconic snack cakes are gone as well, due to the greedy nature of a union looking out only for its members, and not the company or the public that loved the products.

Hostess was collapsing under debt, most of it due to union wages and pension costs. The union had the chance to save the company, but chose not to and it cost most, if not all 18,500 employees to lose their jobs. I wonder how many of them will stuff their pockets full of snack cakes before they leave their factories and stores for the last time?

With any luck, some other company will buy the bakeries and brands, and bring them back to life. Long live Twinkies, Ho Hos and Ding Dongs!

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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