Hostile Hostess…

Egon and the Twinkie from GhostbustersDr. Egon Spengler: [about the storage facility] Wow, its getting crowded in there and these readings point to something big on the horizon.
Winston Zeddemore: What do you mean big?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Well,
[shows a twinkie]
Dr. Egon Spengler: let’s say this twinkie represents all of the psycho kenetic energy in the New York area. According to this morning’s sample it will be a twinkie, 35 feet long and weighing approximately 600 pounds.
[Ray coughs, in disbelief]
Winston Zeddemore: That’s a big twinkie.

–Ghostbusters, 1964

On Wednesday, November, 14, news broke that Hostess Brands was threatening striking workers with bankruptcy liquidation if they didn’t return to work by 5pm November 16th. Management made good on their threat, prompting layoffs for 18,500 workers (far more than belonged to the The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, which went on strike Nov. 9), but not without repercussions. And not without feathering their own nests first.

Daily Kos reports that Hostess Brands lied when the company blamed striking union workers for the bankruptcy. That lie is bad enough, but it’s come to light that Hostess’ CEO and top officers took an enormous raise just before shuttering on the 16th.

It’s unlikely that this is the end for some of Hostess’ top products, however. The Washington Post is among news sources that report Hostess may attract bids from other companies for its most popular brands. The article includes a timeline for the American fixtur’s death-spiral demise.

The money quote from the Post article:

“The crisis facing Hostess Brands is the result of nearly a decade of financial and operational mismanagement that resulted in two bankruptcies, mountains of debt, declining sales and lost market share,” the union said Nov. 15 in a statement. Hostess “attempted to resolve the mess by attacking the company’s most valuable asset — its workers.”

Demonizing unions isn’t new, but the contrast between Hostess’ accusations and the pre-bankruptcy raises for its top employees should serve as a reminder of how corporate greed and commercial gain often outstrip good business practices. Hostess could have taken the opportunity to change their business model and find a new niche in the growing market for healthier snacks. They opted instead to stick to the original formula, driving sales down. They went out of business in a spectacularly self-serving grab for last-minute dollars at the expense of their employees.

Privately held  companies can do whatever they want, but consumers owe it to themselves to pay attention to these lessons.

My heart goes out to those who will find themselves on the unemployment line just before Thanksgiving. Here’s hoping they can find something to be thankful for this year.

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