Twinkies Get Creamed As America Follows Suit

I did some contract work with IBC when it was based in Kansas City a few years ago.  Around 2008-ish.  Back then, the Teamsters Union was doing its best to bring about the outcome that the Baker’s Union ultimately accomplished: Death of the business.  The End didn’t come since the Teamsters knew back then–as they did now–when to pull back from the brink.   “Save the Twinkies, Save the World” was the vision.

Every day, I’d read the company’s consumer/employee bulletin board and just marvel at how divisive and completely un-moderated it was a website with a forum that some guy had set up for IBC employees to bitch about everything and I’m amazed that Hostess allowed it to exist. The CEO was constantly cursed by the union employees while everyone else damned the unions for demanding them all right out of jobs.

Nothing has changed, except that the inevitable has finally occurred.  Hostess has been a doomed business for a long time.  I’m not entirely sure who should be blamed (even though the proximate cause was the stubborness of the bakers).   The vitriol, threats, and “I told you so’s” at the link don’t tell the story, but they clearly show that there’s no shortage of blame in any direction.  It’s hard to see how any company can function for long with that much greed, suspicion, and ineptitude flying around.

I’m a stridently anti-union guy so it’s pretty obvious to me that the unions are to blame for the Hostess fiasco.  They tried to turn a company that makes baked goods into more and more of a benefits and pension provider even as the company went bankrupt and had nothing left to give.  You can’t be surprised by that kind of behavior.  It’s just what they do.  I pity the newly-unemployed workers, but I applaud the permanent destruction of thousands of union jobs.  A more responsible business will take over the brand in time and all will be well, I’m sure.

Yet there’s a lesson here for us all.  Like Hostess, the United States has also awarded lavish entitlements to its people and run up unsustainable liabilities in the process.  The bakers-as-takers simply refused to accept the hard realities of the business and arithmetic, gambled their livelihoods on money that just wasn’t there, and lost everything for themselves and the 2/3 of employees who weren’t on board.

Our big national Twinkie is similarly going stale as people demand yet more cream filling from it.  In Hostess’s case, the people who were tired of fighting about it with those who always wanted to squeeze out more simply walked away and let it go.  What do we do as a nation when the capitalists just stop giving a fuck?

  1. I support Unions but this is a classic example of the unintended consequences of such arrangements. I actually hope the union members suffer, and I hate to be harsh but they won’t learn from their mistakes unless they suffer. One of the problems with Unions is that more often than not they are hijacked by marxist ideologues who don’t actually have an interest in real human lives – only taking the fight to capitalism.

    I still believe unions are a vital aspect of capitalism, and they can prevent certain capitalists from dehumanising the workers, as can so easily happen, but the problems with unions and the reality of what unions do, are so often troubling.

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  2. I actually hope the union members suffer, and I hate to be harsh but they won’t learn from their mistakes unless they suffer.

    I know where you’re coming from, but I just can’t wish that on them. I’ve spent a prolonged amount of time unemployed myself (9 months in 2009). It takes its toll on a man and family. The invisible hand is wiping away those businesses that can’t compete, to my satisfaction, but I do hate to see the individual suffering–necessary and deserved or not.

    The lesson for businesses to me is to avoid unionization at all costs. My own opinion is that employers are usually to blame for this by refusing to listen to their employees, resolve grievances, and pay a fair wage. Again though: We all have lessons to learn from the Fall of the Twinkie.

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  3. I wrote an entire posting once on facebook addressing the reasons I oppose unions. It was in response to a facebook friend who is a union member. The post was logical, well reasoned and substantiated with facts…in the end all the union member had to say in response was, “They help.”

    Maybe Thrill would be so kind as to open up the mic once again in order to post what I wrote as it is far too long to post as a response.

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  4. Your average union worker/activist isn’t a deep intellectual (who is, really?). But they vote the way they’re told by their labor masters and never think about any of it. This behavior on the part of the bakers was downright kamikaze.

    But yeah, they really believe they “help”. Even when their own exorbitant benefits and pensions are preventing the company from purchasing new equipment or offering pay raises to current employees, they still can’t see it and then blame management when their jobs vaporize because they destroyed the company’s ability to compete with businesses that are more successful in controlling labor costs.

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  5. I suppose I should answer this:

    Maybe Thrill would be so kind as to open up the mic once again in order to post what I wrote as it is far too long to post as a response.

    I figured somebody would ask at some point. No, I’m afraid that this is not something I want to do on a routine basis. When I did it for The Contrarian, I was doing it for a guy who has been an Author here in the past, has a long history with the site, is someone whose thoughts I respect, and had put together an extraordinarily quality essay. I’m not saying that all of those have to qualify for me to do an Open Mic, but everyone should understand that this is something I would only do rarely and on a case-by-case basis.

    So, no, I’m not interested.

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  6. Hostess was already in deep trouble partly because of changing tastes-they were in many ways a relic of an earlier time (a relic that I’ll miss, but a relic nonetheless). Even so, it sounds like the Teamsters were willing to choke on a deal that would actually have been worse for them, but the bakers’ union tossed them under the bus and went for what wasn’t there. Like the fable about the dog who thought he saw a bigger bone when he saw his own reflection in the water, they lost everything on what they thought they saw.
    West Virginia Rebel recently posted..The Green Timber MonopolyMy Profile

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  7. Doug Mataconis wrote a good piece on this. Hostess has been in trouble for a long time and the union disagreement was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Still, like you, I hate to see people out of work.

    I’ve spent a prolonged amount of time unemployed myself (9 months in 2009).

    Didn’t know that Thrill. Glad you’re back on your feet. I was very close in late 2008 before I found my current job. Fortunately, my wife had a good job at the time so we kept going.

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  8. Doug Mataconis wrote a good piece on this. Hostess has been in trouble for a long time and the union disagreement was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Still, like you, I hate to see people out of work.

    I guess I should say I hate seeing people out of work too. I have been laid off. Twice! The first time hurt bad and left me unemployed for 5 months. The second time I got laid off a couple of weeks before I was supposed to start a new job elsewhere, and I made out like a bandit collecting both a new paycheck and a very hefty severance (earned it too). I know people that have suffered far worse. A buddy of mine that got laid off at the same time I got my job switch cum severance has been out of work for almost 4 years now! And he is very skilled and hard working, but after you have not worked for over a year you become radioactive.

    Anyway, I lose all sympathy for people that self inflict their unemployment like those that are members of this union did. Demanding that the guy bleeding to death donate a gallon is insane. WTF where they thinking?

    Maybe Obama will “nationalize” Twinkies too like he did GM. He is already being asked to do this. Tax payers just need to part with more of that government cash they collect each pay check, at the government’s discretion, to cover that expense.

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  9. The union was using the GM model of getting stuff that shouldn’t have been on the table, only forgot that people don’t need ding-dongs as much as they need an overpriced POS truck.

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  10. Your average union worker/activist isn’t a deep intellectual (who is, really?).

    “Intellectual” is one of those words that has lost meaning, or had it changed so thoroughly that you shouldn’t use it any longer. It’s an advertising slogan more than anything else, and means “Marxist” in practical application by the majority of people.

    That being said, your average union worker/activist IS a “deep intellectual”…..

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  11. One of the problems with Unions is that more often than not they are hijacked by marxist ideologues who don’t actually have an interest in real human lives – only taking the fight to capitalism.

    Poosh, I believe it’s the primary problem. The whole {“Workers of the World Unite” mindset.

    This may be a bit of a simplistic view but I have a tendency to reduce thing to the lowest common denominator.
    What the Teamsters started and the Bakers picked up, to me, is very similar to the ‘anti-austerity riots’ in southern Europe. Of course the EU will never pick up it’s ball and go home but it will eliminate bad players one by one. Thus damaging everyone – globally.

    Hostess and it’s foes are just the home version of the game show “Who Can Whine the Loudest”

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  12. Could this be the new Bain Capital?

    C. Dean Metropoulos & Co., the private equity firm that owns Pabst Brewing Co., is considering an offer to buy Hostess Brands Inc., which said today it plans to liquidate its business.

    C. Dean Metropoulos, founder of the firm, has specialized in purchasing struggling brands, such as Chef Boyardee and Bumble Bee Tuna and turning them around. The firm paid close attention to the maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread during its bankruptcy proceedings, Daren Metropoulos has said.

    I wish them well but Hostess has been dead to me for about 20 years, They bought out a New England bakery called Drakes Cakes, and back in my youth Drakes Cakes made a 5″ round chocolate cake about an inch and a half high. It had creme filling and was covered with DARK chocolate. “Ring-Ding” was it’s name and Food of the Gods was it’s game. (it’s a chocolate thang, you wouldn’t understand) Well Hostess already had little dinky Ding Dongs but there was still a big market for the much superior Ring-Ding so what do they do? That fools changed the recipe and made them smaller, Damn them to Hell.
    Long story short I was driven into the arms of Lil Debbie and have remained ever since.

    Ding Dong had a TV commercial showing a little boy and his dog walking down a picket fence lined street singing ♪Ring-Ding wish I had a Ring-Ding♫ then he finds a dime in his pocket. After he and his dog eat the just bought cake you see them start down the road singing ♫Ring-Ding, Ring-Ding wish I had another Ring-Ding♪

    Damn I got something in my eye

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  13. I guess I should say I hate seeing people out of work too. I have been laid off. Twice! The first time hurt bad and left me unemployed for 5 months.

    I’m sure there will be someone who will scream “sexist!” but I think unemployment is a harder on men then on women. The reason is because we’re taught (at least most of us) that if you’re not working for a living, you’re a no-account bum. It’s one thing if your wife is working and you’re a stay-at-home dad (although the stay-at-home dads I know still do some work). But I have a relative — smart girl — who can’t work but lives with this guy who basically doesn’t work, doesn’t look for work, relies on the girl’s mother to put the roof over their heads. The sense of shame I feel just thinking about it is profound. And that sense of … really self-worth … something is missing in far too many young men today.

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  14. The reason is because we’re taught (at least most of us) that if you’re not working for a living, you’re a no-account bum.

    Capitalist ideology at work eh?

    … hmmm

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  15. But I have a relative — smart girl — who can’t work but lives with this guy who basically doesn’t work, doesn’t look for work, relies on the girl’s mother to put the roof over their heads.

    You must mean book-smart right?

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  16. Didn’t know that Thrill. Glad you’re back on your feet.

    It was tough. What you said about the sense of self-worth and how that gets eroded struck a chord with me. My employer shut down my facility due to restructuring and a dramatic scaling-back of US operations. In November 2008, I was getting ready for it by job hunting. I was so cocky, I thought I’d have no trouble getting work. I’d NEVER spent longer than a couple of weeks job hunting. I’d always felt that unemployment benefits were a nice safety net for other people, but not for me. I hadn’t realized just how serious the economic meltdown had been.

    In January, we were all laid off and I still had no prospects. I was going to former employers for work and they had nothing to offer. So I bit the bullet and went on the dole. By April, I was fucking terrified because I was getting turned down for jobs at less money than I’d been making. Even when I greatly dropped my expectations, I couldn’t find work. I ended up doing some really crappy, dangerous part-time work for several months, just to prolong earning unemployment.

    In August, the recruiter at my current employer got a hold of me and offered me an interview. The funny thing was that I had first spoken to him just before the layoff from my previous job and he had tried to land me a position in May. The guy took care of me and I still adore him over three years later. We talk all the time.

    I worked my way up at my current job and only got back up to my old pay rate at the end of 2010 with a promotion. A year later, I got promoted again with a massive raise. I’ll stick with this employer for as long as they’ll have me, honest to God. I am damn lucky, compared to most.

    Through all of the time unemployed, I was ashamed and depressed. I applied for what seemed like a couple of hundred jobs and just got rejection or, worse, silence. I did everything I could. I went back to school to work on my Bachelor’s, earned the top certification in my field (since I had time to study), and kept attending professional association meetings to network. It wasn’t my fault that I lost my job and that new opportunities were so sparse, but I was really wondering what the hell was wrong with me. It seemed like I was doing everything I could and nothing mattered.

    And yeah, when you’re a man, it’s hard. Watching my wife go to work every morning while I stayed home with our daughter and knowing that you’re the bitch in the relationship is a hard lump to swallow. You get to a point where you wonder if you should even bother showering and getting dressed for a couple of days.

    Sorry to dump all that on you guys. But I thought some perspective here might explain where I’m coming from.

    Yeah, these union assholes showed hubris and got a wedgie from Nemesis. I can always appreciate a good self-inflicted comeuppance. But I’ll never forget the way prolonged unemployment felt. Those people have all my empathy, even though I probably wouldn’t want one of them working for me.

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  17. Long story short I was driven into the arms of Lil Debbie and have remained ever since.

    Why don’t you have a seat right over there…

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  18. I know where you’re coming from, but I just can’t wish that on them. I’ve spent a prolonged amount of time unemployed myself (9 months in 2009)

    But the obvious difference is this, you got laid off through no fault of your own, these parasites walked away from good paying job with good benefits, all for hopes of obtaining one dollar more. They stepped on their avarice and burned the whole place down in the process, you have nothing in common with these dicks.

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  19. Have to agree on Little Debbie. My greatest snack cake weakness is Zebra Cakes. I seriously can’t remember the last time I ate a Twinkie.

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  20. Have to agree on Little Debbie. My greatest snack cake weakness is Zebra Cakes. I seriously can’t remember the last time I ate a Twinkie.

    It might be worth adding that McKee baking has a healthy balance sheet despite being just as dependent on untimely products as Hostess (perhaps more so as they don’t make bread). McKee also manages to taste much better than Hostess and charge less money for the product. It’s also worth mentioning that they don’t have a union.

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  21. I didn’t know about McKee being non-union. That is a great comparison of two companies and makes me love Little Debbie all the more. Too bad I’m not really big on junk food…

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  22. Not a word about Suzi Qs? What kind of people are you?

    ERRMAHGERD!
    Can you just imagine a Ménage à Trois with Lil Debbie and Suzi-Q?

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  23. Sadly Suzi-Q, the only real lady in the bunch, has been force to perish with a couple of Ding Dong, a Twink, two Ho-Hos and some white bread. I Wonder how she feels. Not a very dignified way to go out for a Hostess.

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  24. I personally don’t care for Suzi-Q’s.

    I shall remember you and this post when I become dictator.

    Can you just imagine a Ménage à Trois with Lil Debbie and Suzi-Q?

    Getting it on with Mr Goodbar. I’m sure it’s out there on the Internet somewhere. I ain’t looking for it though.

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  25. A pox on all your houses. I haven’t had a Hostess product in at least 20 years. We have Tastykakes here and that’s all you need.

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  26. Is it that the capitalist don’t give a fuck or is it the John Galt syndrome. I belonged to a union for awhile but it was a trades union in a right to work state. There were the uncompromising aholes at the meetings that were never happy and always trashing the owners of the companies they worked for that held all the liability. There were plenty of good hard working and caring folks also. But really its pretty simple, there is only so much you’re worth baking twinkies and its directly related to what someone will pay for one. We all know GM can’t charge enough for their vehicles to pay for their employees benefits so what else is new.

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  27. My sentiments exactly, Bob. Hostess has effectively said: “If we are going to continue giving you the compensation you demand in order to bake snacks, then we soon are going out of business. So what we’ll do is sell the company while it’s still worth something and put our money into another investment that will make money. We wish you the best of luck in finding an employer that can afford to provide you with the pay and benefits you feel that you deserve.”

    If those ex-Hostess employees are disillusioned now, just wait.

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