Bye, bye Twinkies…

I love Hostess cupcakes.  I have loved them since I was a kid.  I like to peel the icing off and eat that first.  Then I eat the cake and the filling.  I don’t buy them often because once the box is in the house, I can’t stop eating them.  As I was grocery shopping before the hurricane, I spotted a box of cupcakes at the store and I thought “I really want those.”  But I knew if I was locked in the house with no power and nothing to do, that box would be gone in a day.  As I was about to be spending a week in a bathing suit, I decided to skip it.

Little did I know that when I got home from Mexico, there wouldn’t be a cupcake or a Twinkie or a Ho-Ho to be found.  I can’t believe that such an iconic company like Hostess is going to go out of business.  It’s so incredibly sad to me.

But the saddest part of it is the over 18,000 people who are going to lose their jobs right before the holidays.  That is just so horrible.

We are a union family from way back.  My uncles were all Teamsters and another uncle was among the leaders of the PATCO union in the 80s.  So I was raised to believe in unions.  I’ve always supported the unions in any way I could and I’ve never in my life crossed a picket line.  I’ve even avoided shopping at Wal-Mart if I could avoid it…because I think their efforts against unions and the crappy way they treat their employees are terrible.

There was a point in time when unions were important and they worked.  Unions gave power to the powerless and made sure that people weren’t taken advantage of.  The problem is…I think the unions have now gotten too powerful…and maybe a little too greedy.  I’ve seen too many instances of the unions protecting the lazy and the unemployable…too many instances of nepotism preventing good workers from getting jobs in favor or someone’s nephew.  And in this case…the union is forcing the company out of business.

Look…I know that taking a pay cut and a cut in benefits sucks.  But you know what sucks worse?  Having no job at all.  Which is exactly what is going to happen to every single Hostess employee.  Hostess had a lot of problems…mounting debt, decreasing revenues, a lack of planning to deal with a changing market.  Odds are, they would have gone out of business eventually anyway.  But maybe if the union had given in and accepted the company’s terms, it would have bought the management some time to figure out a new way.  Or maybe not…but at least it would have bought the employees some more time and some more months of getting a paycheck.  It is likely that the Hostess brand will survive and that we will all have Twinkies again. But it’s also likely that those Twinkies will be made in Mexico and all those jobs will go to Mexico too.

The union problem in this country extends far beyond Hostess.  The auto workers union practically bankrupted the auto industry.  In NYC, taxpayer dollars are spent to pay teachers who aren’t teaching and can’t be fired because they are protected by the union while they are awaiting disciplinary hearings.  And recently…during the cleanup after Sandy, out-of-town power crews that went to help out in Seaside Heights, NJ, were sent away because they weren’t in the union.  Imagine that???  Hundreds of thousands of people without power and crews that were here to VOLUNTARILY HELP OUT were sent away.  If I was one of those residents without power, I’d be beyond furious.

I still mostly believe in unions.  I believe in the basic ideas of collective bargaining and union protections.  I don’t believe unions are all bad.  But I think it’s time to take a good long look and how things are really operating and make sure the unions are working the way they are supposed to.  I don’t know what the answer is, but there has got to be a better way.

Comments

  1. I know the unions are getting a lot of the blame for the Hostess debacle, but from what I’ve seen, this is the 2nd bankruptcy filing for Hostess in the last 10 years or so and the corporate officers have been taking massive pay increases between the two, even when the union agreed to pay cuts, etc. the last go-round.

    We don’t really have unions here in Florida, at least not my area, so I have mixed feelings about them anyway. But I see business day in and day out–if the company’s in good shape, absolutely the boss can take that massive bonus at the end of the year. But if the company’s in trouble, a responsible boss isn’t going to take a bonus and might even take a pay cut himself to balance out the P&L. I think the guys at the top of the really big companies have forgotten what it’s like to be in the thick of it.

    I won’t really miss Hostess, though. I’m more of a Little Debbie girl, myself (when I buy those sorts of things at all, which is seldom).

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