Original Twinkies are coming back—but under new management—and without a union. Some five months after Hostess shut down over a standoff with its unions, the restructured company is expecting to put its snacks back on store shelves in the coming months.
With a vow not to use union workers.
The Hostess closing left more than 18,000 people out of work across the country, with the vast majority belonging to the Teamsters and the Bakery Union. “Hostess kept asking for concessions in exchange to keep the plants open and either workers gave away all their power to control wages or the plants closed,” said Daniel Opler, a history professor at College of Mount Saint Vincent and a labor relations specialist. “It was a no win situation. I’m not sure this was a case of the union overplaying its hand or not having a hand to play.”
For Christopher Rhomberg, a Fordham University sociology professor, the strike went beyond wages and benefits. “The workers had good reason to doubt management’s intentions and reorganization plan,” Rhomberg said. “The company had gone through bankruptcy twice in the last eight years and a revolving-door of management teams that increased the firm’s debt but failed to reinvest in production or new products.”
Only 14.3 million of all workers in the U.S. currently belong to unions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—just 11.3 percent of the total workforce. That’s the lowest rate in 70 years. The peak for union workers was a 35 percent rate during the mid-1950s, after a surge in unionization during the Great Depression through post-World War II.
Most union workers are public sector employees with only 7 percent of private sector workers—like those from Hostess—belonging to unions, according to the BLS.
Hostess, it will start hiring this weekend at the Dolly Madison Bakery in Columbus, Georgia, one of the locations shut down when the old company closed.
Hostess executive vice president Michael Cramer said last week” We are not going to invite the unions in. We don’t have to.” Cramer did add that nothing prevents workers from unionizing at some point. Though Hostess might want to keep even a hint of unionization out of the workforce, it can’t.
“They would be inviting trouble if they tried to screen potential workers about their feeling on unions,” one labor lawyer said. “There are employee laws to protect anyone from discrimination about unions. They can’t ask if someone is pro-union or not,” the lawyer said.