Hostess, the maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread, is going out of business

850 Indiana jobs lost in closure

INDIANAPOLIS - Hostess, the maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread, is going out of business, the AP reported Friday.

Hostess, based in Irving, Texas, operates 36 bakeries nationwide and has about 18,300 employees, including more than 850 employees in Indiana. It warned earlier this month that the strike, by about 30 percent of its workforce, could lead to bakery closures.

Slideshow: Hostess snacks through the years   

Workers in Indiana, including those at the Hostess Bakery on Shadeland Avenue, have been picketing the company. Some unions, including the Teamsters, accepted the giveback contract, some of them by narrow margins, but the bakery workers refused. 

Hostess has argued that workers must make concessions as it tries to improve its financial position. The privately held food maker filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than a decade. Hostess cited increasing pension and medical costs for employees as one of the drivers behind its latest filing.

The striking workers said they rejected Hostess' demand that they take an 8 percent pay cut, because they had given and given before.

"There's a limit," said union worker Debra Davis. "When they said an 8 percent cut and they wouldn't even negotiate our contract, they were treating us like we were just walking in off the street. Meanwhile the ones up top were getting 300 percent raises and acted like we were losing money."

"We weren't wanting raises," said employee Richard Whittaker. "All we wanted was our pensions back and to stay at the rate of pay we were at. If you look at the other bakers in town, they make more than we do. They are making it just fine."

The workers also have grievances about their final paychecks. Vernon Crittenden has worked at the facility for 20 years and said he is owed $600.

"It's a bad taste in our mouth," Crittenden said. "We give them everything we can give them. We come to work when they want us to come to work. We never cost them any money. Why do they want to hold our money? I don't understand."

The company, founded in 1930, is fighting battles beyond labor costs, however. Competition is increasing in the snack space and Americans are increasingly conscious about healthy eating.

Financial analysts say the Twinkie brand is coveted, and that product will surface somewhere else. But the same can't be said for the workers who have been at the plant for decades.

"I think what this is going to mean for the workers is they are going to be out of work permanently and those jobs are not going to come back," said Todd Roberson, with the IU Kelley School of Business. "If someone buys the Twinkie brand, they will go with a non-unionized labor force."

Employee John Smith said he understands his situation and is moving on.

"The future here is pretty much done," Smith said. "But my future is beginning somewhere else outside the 22 years of service I have dedicated and sacrificed with this company."

"I hope somebody comes and buys this place and runs it, and runs it right and stops taking advantage of the workers and give us a chance to survive," said Davis.

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