On Friday, November 16, 2012, Hostess Brand, the maker of Wonder Bread, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, Sno Balls, CupCakes, Ding Dongs, Fruit Pies, Donettes, and the all-American Twinkies, announced that it would begin closing down all operations.
This would mean the closing of 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers, 5,500 delivery routes, 570 U.S. bakery outlet stores, and most drastically, the laying off of approximately 18,500 workers.
The news set off two separate reactions among the public: 1) Hostess enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike ran for store shelves to purchase what may be their last Twinkies, and 2) early celebrations for the end of an obesity epidemic.
Does the Strike Have Much to Do With It?
While the former reaction may seem natural, taking away America’s iconic treats can hardly call for an end to obesity. What many believe sparked the conflict was a nationwide strike by Hostess Brands workers, represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM). However, a closer look into the Hostess Brands’ bankruptcy would reveal that a worker’s strike was hardly the reason for their expiration; Hostess Brands has been suffering from 1) decreasing demands, 2) $860 million in debt (with just $1 billion in assets), and 3) poor management (imposing an 8% wage cut and 27%-32% benefits cut from workers, while tripling the CEO’s salary just months prior).
A loss for Hostess Brands is a loss for union workers, setting a precedent for other companies looking to exploit workers.
Hostess Brands has been the corner-stone for a large portion of diet-related humor since its conception; just think back to the “Twinkie Challenge” or countless Twinkie shelf life experiments. However, the situation workers have been placed under is no laughing matter; the closing down of an enormous, profit-making, American bakery is never a good thing.
Hostess Brands, just like Kraft Foods and Nestle, are responsible for employing almost half a million employees. A loss for Hostess Brands is a loss for union workers, setting a precedent for other companies looking to exploit workers. If there is anything we’ve learned in recent years, it’s that nutrition and food science go hand in hand with food justice; fair wages and proper benefits may supply workers with the money to eat better, obtain healthcare, and live generally healthier lives; the benefits of which will trickle down to everyone.
Hostess Brands: eat in moderation, and root for mediation.