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Who killed the Twinkie?
The seemingly imperishable snack may have met its match in Big Labor
 
Twinkies, which were thought to withstand the apocalypse, may not be long for this world.
Twinkies, which were thought to withstand the apocalypse, may not be long for this world.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The seemingly imperishable Twinkie has finally met its match, says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post, and its name is Big Labor. Hostess, the 82-year-old maker of Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, and Wonder Bread, said last week that it will go out of business after failing to strike a deal on wage and pension cuts with its bakers' union. This week a last-ditch attempt at mediation failed. No surprise there, says The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. Workers' over-the-top demands had long since pushed the company to the brink of insolvency. Hostess was forced to maintain no fewer than 80 health and 40 pension plans; "drivers weren’t allowed to load their own vehicles, and the workers who loaded bread weren’t allowed to load cake." When the need for cuts became a matter of company survival, obstinate unions chose to "kill an American classic" rather than give an inch, taking 18,500 of their own jobs down with them. 

Don’t scapegoat the workers, says John Nichols in The Nation. The unions didn’t ask for more pay or better benefits, and they’d already accepted thousands of layoffs and major concessions during Hostess’ last round in bankruptcy court, which ended in 2009. No, "Hostess was smashed by vulture capitalists" who loaded the company with debt and earned millions in fees, and by "incompetent managers" who gave themselves huge raises as the company faltered. The CEO who led the company back into bankruptcy earlier this year got a 300 percent pay raise, even as the company stopped contributing to workers’ pension funds, says Jake Blumgart at Salon. "To add insult to injury," the current CEO has asked a bankruptcy judge’s permission to pay executives $1.75 million in bonuses. And somehow the unions are to blame for this fiasco?

The hard truth is that Hostess "probably should have gone out of business a long time ago," says James Surowiecki at The New Yorker. Its core problem isn’t bad management or union demands, but the fact that though American diets have changed, "it did not." The company and its "highly caloric" snacks got "stuck somewhere in the 1960s," says Josh Sanburn at TIME. Twinkie fans shouldn’t despair: Hostess and its sweets will probably be sold off to the highest bidder, ensuring that Twinkies, Drake’s cakes, and Sno Balls can live to see another day. But they’ll probably still sit unloved on a shelf somewhere, condemned to "wither away right along with old eating habits."

 

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