Union workers, teamsters speak up after Hostess closure - KCTV5

Union workers, teamsters speak up after Hostess closure

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Empty shelves at the Hostess outlet in Shawnee, KS.     Bonyen Lee/KCTV Empty shelves at the Hostess outlet in Shawnee, KS. Bonyen Lee/KCTV

Two hundred jobs are gone for employees in Lenexa after Hostess has closed all of its plants nationwide. The closure is centered around a battle in the employee union.

Picketers stood on the line at the Hostess factory after the announcement Friday only as a show of solidarity, supporting each other in a decision that's cost 18,500 jobs. Union members said this is about making a stand for the working class just as it was about holding the financial line.

"It is devastating. There's a lot of jobs at stake but, on the other hand, enough is enough. You can only take so much, at some point you have to stand up and do what's right," Conrad Boos, a union member for Bakery International Union said.

Boos voted to disapprove a contract with Hostess that would have cut wages by 8 percent, increased healthcare costs by 20 percent, eliminated pension supplements and the eight-hour work day.

"Everybody that works here had a dog in the fight," Boos said.

The "everybody" he referred to included Teamsters Union members who approved their contract and continued to work through the strike.

"This was the first time I ever crossed the picket line in my life," Teamsters Union member Roy Stufflebean said.

The company announced it's liquidating its assets after Bakery Union members did not end their strike by a 4 p.m. deadline Thursday. The 18,500 jobs lost is a sacrifice Bakery Union member said was a tough call, but the sacrifice has the support of fellow union members like Stufflebean.

"They didn't buy new equipment like they promised. All they did was give bonuses to the bigger guys, so it was a matter of the big guys getting the money and we're getting poorer," he said.

The CEO of Hostess said he hopes to find a buyer for some of the company's brands, like Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread, but some Twinkie lovers are stocking up while they can.

Boxes of Twinkies are flying off the shelves at metro grocery stores and the bakery outlet at the Lenexa plant has seen a steady flow of costumers buying up products at a steep discount.

Scott Matteson filled five bags full of his Hostess favorites.

"I just wanted to come up here one last time and take a trip through the store. Smell that good baked bread smell. It's unfortunate what's going on," he said.

Matteson grew up eating Hostess products, from Wonder Break to Twinkies. The Hostess announcement about liquidating its assets is a little mark in history for Kansas Citians.

"I'm not sure what the union employees were thinking, I'm not dinging the unions or anything, but 18,000 people are now out of work," Matteson said.

Grocery stores stocked shelves with the last of Hostess products and one store guessed they had a week left of inventory.

"I came here to get a box. I was already at one store and they were all sold out," Matteson said.

Union members and customers alike expect another company will take over the brand, although there is no official signs of revival at this time.

Hostess was an already struggling company when the strike happened. It filed for its second bankruptcy earlier this year. Workers said, since the company's first bankruptcy in 2009, union members were forced to take a $10 a week pay cut.

Hostess has been producing 500 million Twinkies a year.

The "Save our Twinkies" hashtag was trending on Twitter Friday. It's a petition local radio host Danny Boi started in hopes of getting the White House to respond.

Click here for the petition to nationalize the Twinkie industry.

Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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