Paul Sakuma/AP/File
This January 2012 file photo shows Hostess Twinkies on display at a grocery store in Santa Clara, Calif. Unionized Hostess Brands workers across the country are on strike, protesting wage and benefits cuts.

Hostess Brands strike puts Twinkies maker in jeopardy

Hostess Brands factory workers nationwide are on strike, protesting a contract that would cut wages and drastically reduce benefits. Hostess Brands warned in a statement last week that a widespread strike would prompt the company to liquidate and lay off the bulk of its workforce. 

Several hundred workers at a Hostess plant in northeast Philadelphia were off the job honoring a bakers' union strike at the bankrupt company's plants across the country.

The walkout that began Friday came after Hostess Brands Inc. imposed a contract that would cut wages and benefits 27 to 32 percent, with an immediate 8 percent wage reduction, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union said. Officials say the company stopped making contributions to the workers' pensions last year, and 92 percent of union members voted to reject the contract in September.

Hostess, which makes Twinkies, Wonder Bread, and Ding Dongs, filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than a decade.

About 330 workers at the Philadelphia plant have joined several dozen workers from Maine who arrived to picket, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Only some Hostess workers are free to strike, according to a union fact sheet, but the existing contract allows striking workers to set up picket lines at other plants, and workers at those plants can honor the picket lines.

Thousands of workers are protesting the company's action across the country, James Condran, an international union representative who was at the Philadelphia plant, told the paper.

Hostess Brands Inc. acknowledged "concessions (that) are tough" but urged workers to remain on the job "to rebuild the company."

Hostess warned in a statement last week that a widespread strike would prompt the company "to liquidate if we are unable to produce or deliver products" and it would then lay off most of its 18,300-member workforce "and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders."

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