Ohio

We Are Ohio Broadcasts AFL-CIO Response to Hostess Strike

Organizations

Union front We Are Ohio has used its Facebook page as a megaphone for AFL-CIO responses to the possible liquidation of Hostess Brands, which is entering a final round of mediation with an AFL-CIO affiliate whose strike could put the company out of business.

With Hostess on the brink of laying off nearly 18,500 employees – including 867 employees in 8 Ohio bakeries and stores - We Are Ohio posted a flurry of updates imploring its 110,000 fans to ignore criticism of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM).

On November 19, We Are Ohio linked to a press release from BCTGM with the note, “The worker blame game continues, but we can fight back with information. Please share.”

Sharing a graphic originally posted by the AFL-CIO on November 16, We Are Ohio wrote, “Stop the lies being spread about workers. Please share and inform.”

The AFL-CIO graphic pointed to past BCTGM concessions and corporate mismanagement, claiming the recent strike was a case of union workers standing up to “Bain-style crony capitalism.”

Later on November 19, We Are Ohio continued the “corporate raiders” theme unions levied against failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a post linking to a Forbes story which suggested management decisions put Hostess in its current position.

By the end of the day We Are Ohio had posted another AFL-CIO infographic, as well as a link to an AFL-CIO petition which claimed “Hostess workers are being scapegoated because they are standing up to corporate greed.”

As is often the case, We Are Ohio and AFL-CIO seek to paint a picture that is incomplete at best when considering the facts behind the situation at Hostess Brands.

In prior years, Hostess purchased unionized factories that would have otherwise gone under, but the company became restricted by the more than 300 unique collective bargaining agreements with employees from those factories. Hostess was unable to increase the efficiency of its operations, due in large part to the cost and complexity of labor contracts.

Certain contract stipulations from the Teamsters amounted to “featherbedding,” as the union demanded that different drivers be used to deliver different products. As a result, multiple deliveries would be required to the same destinations, increasing union membership by forcing Hostess to hire unnecessary employees.

In September 2012, Teamsters agreed to new concessions which were rejected by BCTGM. Had BCTGM – an AFL-CIO affiliate – accepted the contract Hostess proposed, unions would have received a 25 percent stake in the company and a seat on its board of directors.

On November 15, almost immediately before Hostess Brands announced that it was shutting down operations, the Teamsters wrote that “all Hostess employees should know this is not an empty threat or a negotiating tactic, but the certain outcome if members of the BCTGM continue to strike.”

In a November 16 press release, BCTGM President Frank Hurt said, “Throughout this long and difficult process, BCTGM members showed tremendous courage, solidarity and devotion to principle. They were well aware of the potential consequences of their actions but stood strong for dignity, justice and respect.”

U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge Robert Drain noted in a November 19 Associated Press interview that BCTGM had filed no objections to Hostess’s contract offer before going on strike. “Not to have gone through that step leaves a huge question mark in this case,” Drain said.