By Mary Sanchez

Who Moved My Twinkie?

January 2, 2013 12:00 am Category: Memo Pad 29 Comments A+ / A-
Who Moved My Twinkie?

America lost one of its iconic brands last month when Hostess, maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Wonder Bread and other staples of postwar Middle America, closed up shop.

The announcement was an occasion for wags to litter the Internet with jokes about the Twinkie, a pathetic industrial confection that couldn’t be more out of step with our artisanal, gourmet tastes. But there was another curious aspect to the story: Hostess workers were still represented by several labor unions, and one of them, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, had gone on strike. The failure of management and the bakers’ union to reach an agreement, it appears, precipitated the closing of the company and the loss of 18,000 jobs.

The Twinkie and the labor union, going down together — the story fitted perfectly into a pat journalistic narrative in which unions have done their work (thanks for the eight-hour day, folks!) but now must exit the historical stage.

Unfortunately, reality is not quite so simple. Recently, we learned — from the Wall Street Journal, no less — that the company had diverted payments it was supposed to make to the employee pension fund into other operating accounts. This at a time when finances were tight and management nevertheless decided to give itself more bonuses and salary raises.

Genius.

This is the new America: Bonuses and stock options for the top brass, pink slips and blame for the working class. Most Hostess employees had taken steep pay cuts over the last few years. One of the major reasons the bakers’ union went on strike was that the company was not honoring prior pension agreements.

The version we got from the headlines was a little different: Union refuses to negotiate, forces 80-plus-year old company to shut down.

Don’t be mistaken. What happened at Hostess is part of a long, protracted shift in the American workplace. Companies use any means at their disposal, including bankruptcy reoganization, to get rid of unions. Meanwhile, right-wing think tanks and pundits demonize union members as freeloaders and thugs. It has been a decades-long project, and it’s been incredibly successful.

Look at Michigan. With a law signed this week by Gov. Rick Snyder, it became the 24th state in the nation where a person can accept a job, along with the benefits negotiated by union contracts, and opt out of paying union dues. In time, this will undercut the unions — and their ability to negotiate with employers.

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Who Moved My Twinkie? Reviewed by on . America lost one of its iconic brands last month when Hostess, maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Wonder Bread and other staples of postwar Middle America, closed u America lost one of its iconic brands last month when Hostess, maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Wonder Bread and other staples of postwar Middle America, closed u Rating:

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  • http://www.facebook.com/dominick.vila.1 Dominick Vila

    Outrageous CEO and directors salaries and benefit packages, lousy investments, and inability to change to changing lifestyles and the advent of new technologies have more to do with the demise of many American enterprises than the alleged high salaries paid to union members.
    There are cases where assembly line workers earn a lot more than what the job warrants, and that needs to change, but the media fixation on organized labor as the only culprit for the problems our industry is facing is not only biased, it ignores other important factors that also require change.
    Why is it that so many Northern European countries and Japan can afford to pay their workers salaries comparable to those earned in the USA, better benefit packages, and still be competitive and highly successful?

    • thinkingalso

      …because the workers ‘work’! It’s a cultural thing, the Japanese and Northern Europeans produce ‘quality’ products consistently! Not to say we American’s don’t work or produce quality products, we do. It is my belief that cultural difference makes for consistency and a belief in those lands that hard work pays.

      Union members here, I believe, think on the line that being in a union pays.

      • awakenaustin

        Of course being in a union pays. It is the reason unions are formed. Join a union and get paid more than you would if you negotiated on your own. They have unions in Japan and Northern Europe also. I don’t know a single person in this nation who doesn’t believe hard works pays. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay very much. We have this problematic tendency in this nation to assume that there is a relationship between work/income and character. The idea runs generally along the line that if you have a “good” job and “good” income you must have a “good” character. This frequently leads us to undervalue the role and moral status of people who labor manually. It also often leads us to assume and presume when there is some economic kerfuffle the fault or responsibility must lie with the working classes, the unions, the lower wage earners, the poor and/or the unemployeed. For this reason we almost never assign blame to the wealthy, the professional, the businessman or the cultural, social, and economic leadership. Their status and wealth means we simply assume their moral and ethical superiority. In a bad paraphrase of “Dilbert,” the janitor in my office works harder than anyone else in the office with the exception of the secretaries. He gets paid less than everyone else and he has a second job.
        When companies go belly up it is almost exclusively the result of bad management, superior competitors or no need for the product or service and not because their workers don’t work hard enough or get paid too much.
        Unions made possible most of the economic security and economic prosperity enjoyed by the working and middle classes in this nation today. Business owners did not turn loose of those dollars and long work hours wilingly. The economy’s main engine is middle class (broadly defined) and the money it spends. It is the prosperity of the middle class which makes overall prosperity possible. People who work need to be paid. They need to be paid a reasonable livable wage. When they are, we are all better off. Unions deserve a big wet kiss for being instrumental in making that possible. As they disappear the middle class will shrink and prosperity will be harder to come by. (Conflicts of interest – I am not a union member nor do I receive any pay in any form from unions.) Reality is reality.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dominick.vila.1 Dominick Vila

          Well said!

        • jendevizio

          VERY WELL SAID! It’s sad that receiving a decent salary and benefits for hard work that we have enjoyed as a result of hard-fought union members will soon disappear. We have stupidly allowed big business and politicians to destroy our unions.

          • http://twitter.com/RrjgenRachel Rachel Johnson

            I will never understand why people like to work for low wages, bad benefits, in bad conditions. It is an enigma to me. I always preferred to have good jobs, good benefits and high wages. In fact I was a clinic station secretary. We were in the union. We got paid about $3.00 more an hour then the certified nurses assistants. They gave shots to patients. We answered the phone. They voted to not have a union. We voted the union in. If you are not in a union you will get the short end of the stick. No matter what you do.

      • metrognome3830

        Nice going. You just aided and abetted the Tea Party with your last line. Just lump all union members together into a pile of useless, lazy, non-working pieces of meat and that sums it all up. You may be “thinkingalso,” but not very diligently. Stereotypes are real time savers, aren’t they.

  • nobsartist

    We need a law that makes it illegal for companies to hire incompetent CEO’s that bankrupt companies to take advantage of the American taxpayer like romney is so fond of doing.

    We need a tax law that taxes CEO’s and corporate governors that are the recipient of profits thru bankruptcy 150% of what they received.

    We need a new government agency that approves or disapproves bankruptcy’s of ALL publicly traded companies.

    • davidfishman2001

      We need a law that caps corporate officers compensation to 25 times the lowest paid worker.

    • sjame

      what we don’t need is more government agencies. and…. more pork added on to bills…. the fiscal cliff was avoided by adding more pork to the bill for the state representatives that had to be wooed…. as long as we keep adding that crap to our expenses, we can’t add more government agencies… that just makes it easier for our wonderful congress to bleed the public

      • nobsartist

        We need more government agencies. The lack of is what has bankrupted our country.

        Lets make a bet. I bet that we get out of our financial problems by having our government spend more money like eisenhower did. And he was a republiCON.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/64NJERZI6UTQSVI5BJCNAXSJVA SUMNER

    When will AMERICA come to terms with THE TRUTH. UNIONS WERE FORMED IN RESPOCE TO BIG BUSINESS BEING UNWILLING TO PAY A DECENT WAGE,PROVIDE SAFE AND HEALTHY WORKPLACES,ETC. In essence BIG BUSINESS AND THE WEALTHY CREATED UNIONS BY THEIR GREEDY,SELFISH AND UNFAIR TREATMENT OF THE PEOPLE WHO PUT IN THE LABOR TO PROVIDE THEIR WEALTH. As a child,I remember a local factory that was reknown for NOT HAVING A UNION. One could ONLY get a job there ,if someone retired or died. They did this by TREATING THEIR EMPLOYEES AS EQUALS AND PROVIDING DECENT WAGES,CONDITIONS AND BENEFITS WITHOUT HAVING TO BR FORCED TOO. Today youth think that things like health benefits,8 hour days,time and a half for overtime,vacations even MINIMUM WAGE came about because of employers. NOT SO. I worked for one employer ,who took credit at a group meeting for providing workmen’s compensation. He was quite upset when I spoke up and stated TRUTHFULLY that it was a requirement under state law. This and many other thing were BROUGHT ABOUT BY UNIONS,NOT EMPLOYER GENEROUSITY

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KOPKDFAUQPIIRAFI3HEXNMSHLQ Ed

      “Treating their employees as equals and providing decent wages, conditions and Benefits”! Do that and no Union organiser will ever trouble you. The one anti-union tactic that is both legal and effective.

    • http://www.facebook.com/frederick.stegemiller.9 Frederick Stegemiller

      im a retired union carpenter of 40 yrs I have never voted 4 a republican they r anti people especially union people u people need 2 start using ur brain think of ur pocket book like in teachers voted a democrat 2 head education but forgot the rest of the people running this just blows my mind the democrats brought us clean air, water, social security, medicfare and now national health people all of u need 2 wake up I still fight 4 unions and I have been retired 4 9 yrs wake up vote right u will never regret it also abortion shoul not b in politics

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/AO5XGV65KYB5J75FJVYGKPHZOU L. Roy

    When you add the Texas Fright to Work law into this you know why labor is iignored

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/64NJERZI6UTQSVI5BJCNAXSJVA SUMNER

    In regard to this “right to work” thing. THOSE UNWILLING TO PAY UNION DUES SHOULD ALSO BE EXCLUDED FROM WAGE AND BENEFIT INCREASES THAT UNION PEOPLE WERE WILLING TO FIGHT FOR. IT IS DIGUSTING THAT ASS-KISSING SCABS UNWILLING TO RISK ANYTHING WILL GLADLY EXCEPT WHAT UNIONS WON . If the had an ounce of decency,THEY WOULD REFUSE TO EXCEPT WHAT UNIONS WON. And instead grovel for a meager handout if the employer so chose

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KOPKDFAUQPIIRAFI3HEXNMSHLQ Ed

      Unfortunately the Republicans rigged the law so that the unions must represent ALL worker, including grievances and arbitrations regardless of membership. That is why the unions always want compulsory membership in their contracts. Defending employees against ,management costs money.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dominick.vila.1 Dominick Vila

        The strategy they have pursued to demonize unions is to portray them as nefarious individuals that meet in dark rooms to plot on how to destroy innocent American entrepreneurs who are just trying to make a buck.
        People forget that those horrible union members the GOP talks about are our relatives, neighbors and friends. They are American blue collar workers trying to support their families. The irony is that the people that will get hurt when there is no organized labor to prevent corporate abuses are the people who are benefitting from the benefits of organized labor without paying dues to ensure their rights are represented during bargaining unit negotiations or arbitration.
        I don’t support outrageous demands by either side, but make no mistake, without unions corporations will not have a reason to pay competitive salaries or offer a good benefit package, if for no other reason than there are more semi-skilled workers than there is demand for their labor…and employers are well aware of that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Colleen-Klemp/100002683878543 Colleen Klemp

      I agree, those people are not good neighbors & are unpatriotic. They are are greedy & don’t have the backbone to fight for worker rights. When they are endanger of loosing their job the unions should not represent them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Myers/100001512942781 Jim Myers

      Replying to SUMNER -

      The problem is that the Management and Owners know that the best way to undermine the Unions in a Right To Work state is to provide the exact wage and benefits to all the workers in similar jobs.

      That provides an incentive for people to take the job without paying the Union.

      This works well for the non-Union workers in the short term. As time goes on, it hurts all of the workers, Union and non-Union alike.

      However, by then the Union is too weak to overcome the pressure.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KOPKDFAUQPIIRAFI3HEXNMSHLQ Ed

    “The Media”ncluding YAHOO are run by millionairres. And it seems they don’t like America very much.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YDGRKS5L2M2G2J6DTM4ZI25C2A John Griggs

    Headlines read “Bakers Union would rather lose their jobs than take a pay cut”. Well, look at us now, accepting handouts from the government that is funded by that big ole rich guy we all despise. If we all hate the rich guy and the big companies so much, let’s just quit taking the handouts from the government that they pay for. HA, HA, HA

    • Sand_Cat

      Obviously you aren’t part of the “we.”

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/RFEPMKNCBVGJYV2X7LBNDGRUEY William

    The same people who want the benefits of a union without paying dues are the same people who call others users and takers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Myers/100001512942781 Jim Myers

    If Right To Work is such a good thing, WHY ARE THE POLICE FORCES EXEMPT FROM THIS NEW BENEFIT?

    The answer is that the Governor was too much of a COWARD to actually extend this BENEFIT to the people who are paid to protect him and his cronies in the legislative branches.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mcgowen980 John McGowen

    I guess we need to drop the unions and usher in the age of comparable wages to such nations as Taiwan and China. We are moving towards a global economy and the gears are churning; there is no stopping it. In order to line their pockets big business executives have sold out the American labor force to third world nations and they have now become the competition of the American worker. We need to accept that even those Americans that are on welfare have more possessions, food and money than 75% of people the world over and now we need to teach them how to be appreciative of that so corporate America can feel free to conquer world markets without worry about America’s greedy poor via taxation and entitlement programs. The prosperity of the 1950′s and ’60′s will never return for the masses but massive wealth will certainly be gained by a few. Prosperity will still be available for all but only a few will actually succeed at obtaining it and the overwhelming majority of those that do will do so by bending the rules ever-so-slightly, as to avoid the moral dilemma of breaking major laws and causing great harm, they can however live knowing they have swindled their workers out of just a few thousand dollars each so long as they can point the finger elsewhere to avert public scrutiny. This is a very successful business model, i.e. multiply a 20% wage cut for several years and the avoidance of paying a few thousand dollars per worker into the pension funds by say, oh, I don’t know, maybe 18,000 workers and what do you get? =One hell of a Christmas bonus so long as the unions don’t get in the way.

  • jstsyn

    Hope all you dumb sh_ts that fell for the anti union B.S. enjoy working sixty hours a week in unsafe conditions for peanuts and no benefits.

  • http://twitter.com/RrjgenRachel Rachel Johnson

    When the people of America understand that Unions are on their side, we will have a voice in labor again. If you like bad bosses, unequal treatment, friends being hired over people who actually qualify, and to dread going to work everyday. If you prefer to be paid less and do more work in hot/cold or unpleasant conditions…Then most employers will fit the bill. If you are getting tired of being treated like a low wage slave. It is time to start looking into a job change. There has to be a dummies guide to unions out there that could show you the right direction to go in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/crzydancer Richard Holmes

    Bonuses and stock options. The same thing that tyhese to big to fail finance corporations did for their top brass. Now you want to say the company is to blame for the loss of 18,000 jobs. The unions are as much to blame as anyone else. The unions have done more damage to this country than most anything else. Unions are a bane on the world and workers especially.

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