So an iconic snack food company goes out of business and blames the employees who helped make it profitable for over 80 years. Naturally, the right-wing pundits join in — when a company goes under, it’s always the fault of those greedy workers who refused to agree that their wages should be cut to save the company owners and managers from their own mistakes.
Get this one, from Mark Hemingway at The Weekly Standard: “Among many pro-labor types, this was dismissed as yet another negotiating ploy by management. It wasn’t.” Love that “Among many pro-labor types” part. So much subtextual contempt conveyed in those few words! “Pro-labor types” — as though people who support the right of employees to organize in order to represent their own economic self-interests are some weird little cult.
And this, from Philip Klein at The Washington (emphasis is mine):
Hostess — the owner of Twinkies, Ho Ho’s, Ding Dong’s, Drake’s coffee cakes and dozens of other iconic brands of prepackaged baked goods — is being forced to liquidate, because members of one of its labor unions refused to end their strike and come back to work. So now, most of the company’s 18,500 workers will be looking for a job as Hostess liquidates its assets.
Tengrain at Mock, Paper, Scissors injects some reality into this nonsense:
Hostess Brands Inc., makers of the ubiquitous Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread, is going out of business. The management claims it is because the associated workers’ unions would not accept a pay cut, and not enough scabs crossed the picket lines to keep production going[.]
What’s interesting in the article is that it barely mentions any other factors that might be involved, like price increases of ingredients or that the demand for these “treats” has dropped in what is a highly competitive market segment.
Which is cold comfort to all those people who are losing their jobs. We are sure Rayburn will be feted as a principled Job Creator and move onto another gig.
… Gawker notes that: Out of 18,500 individuals employed by Hostess, only 5,000 belong to the bakers’ union. The strikes began on Nov. 9, when the company imposed a contract that would cut workers’ wages by 8 percent. The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) said the contract would also cut benefits by 27 to 32 percent.
And Doug Mataconis (emphasis is mine):
Hostess has had financial difficulties for years now, much of it related to its labor costs and its inability to compete effectively in a food and snack market that has changed significantly over the decades. The company, originally known as Interstate Bakeries Corporation, was founded in 1930 first filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection in 2004 and spent five years under bankruptcy protection before emerging in 2009 under a new name, Hostess Brands, Inc. Within two years, though, the company was back in financial trouble and once again filed for bankruptcy protection at the beginning of this year. It’s difficult for a company to successfully emerge from Chapter 11 successfully to begin with, it becomes nearly impossible when that company is forced to re-enter Chapter 11 only a few years later. That’s a sign of an unsustainable business model and/or cost structure. So on some level, it’s not at all surprising to see this happen.
But as always, the right’s instinct is to go for the authoritarian world view. If there’s a big national deficit that needs to be cut, cut the domestic social and economic relief programs that benefit the most vulnerable, least powerful members of society rather than raise taxes on wealthy Americans by one penny. If a company is failing — or if it isn’t failing at all but simply wants to increase its profits — blame the workers at the bottom of the pay scale who object to having their wages and benefits cut, and/or their working conditions made less safe. Don’t ever hold top management and/or the company’s owners responsible for bad business decisions, or expect them to cut their own salaries or forego their bonuses or — horrors! — lose their own jobs when they make disastrous business decisions.
There’s this idea in the corporate world and among free market cheerleaders that private companies and corporations have an inalienable right to make money regardless of how they treat their employees. But that is not true. No company has an innate right to a profit and/or to be in business at all if it cannot do so without busting unions and exploiting workers.