Friday, November 16, 2012

The Politics of Food and the Tragedy of Twinkies

When I was a child, back in the day, nothing tasted better than PBand J on Wonder Bread in my school lunch box along with a Twinkie for dessert.  In fact, Twinkies, those little creme filled sponge cakes with a shelf life of a thousand years, were the gustatory icons of my youth. Every red blooded American kid and lots of adults too, loved them. Hostess Brands, Inc., the company that until just the other day made both Wonder Bread, Twinkies, and a whole line of  super refined, non organic, high sugar, low nutrition cupcakes, was a staple of the American cultural scene and a leader in the American business community.

The company has filed for bankruptcy for the second time since 2004 and now, in the face of a nationwide strike by the  Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union that has crippled the company's ability to produce and deliver product, has decided to shut down and liquidate.

The go-ahead for liquidation was given this morning at a hearing in bankruptcy court in White Plains, NY.  It is bye bye Twinkies and bye bye to thousands of jobs, pensions and more.  The Republican fringe, fresh from its shock at the defeat of Mittins, is  happy about the death of the Twinkie. SEE?, they say, See how evil  union workers stifle job creation and ruin noble capitalism?  Oh how they do go on-- mis-interpreting everything to make it agree with their skewed view of the world.

 The demise of  Hostess Brands has to do with changing American tastes, not the evil of unionized workers.  Twinkies are out of date.Organic cakes and cookies, made with honey and molasses are what Moms are feeding kids these days.  Twinkies may last forever, but the demand for them is dying out.  It isn't just a question of the Bakers Union or the Teamsters Union-- these guys have already made big concessions to accomodate management in response to the disappearing customer base.

 It's not a question of greedy unions.  It is  a question of management and shareholders and the ever present bean counters realizing that liquidating the assets and selling off the brands is the only solution that makes sense when consumers aren't buying. Workers don't have much clout in a situation where liquidation of assets is the goal.  that's how capitalism works.  It's all about the market.

Don't listen to the anti-union conservatives who want to tell you that the demise of Twinkies is all a Commie, Socialist plot engineered by the workers, the unions and the Obama Administration and that the country is going to the dogs. That is not the case.  In point of fact, while the company points to the Union demands as the problem, last January, while filing for bankruptcy for the second time, the CEO's take home package was tripled and other senior execs received increases of up to 80%.  Rather odd behavior for people who want to save a company, wouldn't you say?

 The truth is that Hostess makes products that younger consumers increasingly do not want. Business is business and liquidation is what makes  financial sense.  Management  will liquidate the company, sell the brands to other companies perhaps at a handsome profit and perhaps for pennies on the dollar. Whatever they get will be used to pay  off the shareholders and pay company debt ( including their salaries and bonuses no doubt).  The workers, as usual, will get screwed. What else is new?

But never fear. Life will go on.  And if you are a Twinkies junkie, hustle on down to the store right now and stock up on a lifetime supply.  They keep forever . You don't even have to refrigerate them.


Doug B said...

Yes, that was odd behavior for people wanting to save a company. But it is typical behavior now. And widely accepted, sadly.

mommapolitico said...

Well, they "Bained" the Ding Dong and the HoHo. That is an honest to goodness tragedy. I hope the SOBs who took home those giant corporate salaries start none sing for a Hostess cupcake and realize what they've done at the expense of the American worker. Great post, GF.

mommapolitico said...

Damn spell check. Hope they start jonesing for a cupcake...

Unknown said...

Those private equity boys don't even realize they are doing something immoral-- they have the nerve to call themselves " job creators"

Thanks for the comment, Doug and Mommapolitics-- good to see you GF. It has been waayyyy too long and I am so with you on the subject of spell checks:-)

Unknown said...

Their corporate debt did them in but they will never admit it, its time to either blame the unions for everything or Obama...take your pick with these morons.

Unknown said...

I think they are less morons than slick con men, Dusty-- but either way they are playing the blame game while they put their own hands in the cookie jar-- sheesh!