Urban legend has it that Twinkies have a shelf life of decades: not only do they contain no actual food, but one ingredient is the same chemical used in embalming fluid. Even though this claim is
It seems that the debt-riddled owners (they have been predatory, many, and varied) sloppily forgot to eviscerate the union's pension plan last time around, and are heading back into court to force the Twinkie-transporting Teamsters and the factory food workers to give up their contracts. Hostess executives from the Texas HQ went judge-shopping, and finally settled on a friendly New York bankruptcy court.
The judge with the reputation for coercing concessions from unions in bankruptcies to make the capitalist vultures happy and whole is one Robert D. Drain. I am not kidding. This guy is a living legend in the world of legal union-busting for fun and profit. Writes labor journalist Robert Vail:
Between 2005 and 2009 Drain presided over the infamous Delphi auto parts bankruptcy, in which the United Auto Workers saw its Delphi membership decimated.The workers are being asked to give up $659 million in wages and benefits over three years, in addition to relinquishing their pensions. All for the good of the bottom line, of course. Management will apparently try to appeal to the employees' sense of junk food junkie grass-roots solidarity and job security. They might even stir up anti-union sentiment by threatening to raise the price of SnoBalls to $5 for the already-struggling
More recently, he has been overseeing the case of the A&P supermarket chain. Just six weeks ago, about 30,000 grocery clerks and store employees represented by the United Food & Commercial Workers union were forced into broad concessions under circumstances just like those faced by the Hostess workers.
The union boss is not having it. He represents the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union. (Not to editorialize or anything, but the combo of Twinkies and cigs doesn't exactly inspire sympathy. On the other hand, it is pretty cruel and irresponsible for a company whose products contribute mightily to America's bloated health care costs to cut the medical benefits of its own employees. I call this the WWDBA-- the WalMart Way of Doing Business in America). Anyway, the union boss's name is Frank Hurt, and he is mightily pained:
I find it deeply offensive and highly disingenuous for the company to claim that its financial woes are the result of its union contracts and pension and health benefits obligations. We contend that the company is in dire financial shape because of a string of failed business decisions made by a series of ineffective executives who have been running the company for the past decade.For a junk food company, you'd think they'd know better than to indulge in that no-no of snacking: the double-dip. It previously filed for Chapter 11 in 2004, when it was known as Interstate Bakeries. The company also named a new chief executive, James R. Elsessor, who had taken over as CEO for Charles Sullivan, replaced by Tony Alvarez. Confused yet? Mitt Romney, amazingly enough, is nowhere to be found in this labyrinth, but that doesn't mean he's not lurking nearby. Interstate Bakery's stock, which had been at one time $34/share, fell to $2.05/share as they declared bankruptcy.
At the time it was the longest bankruptcy in U.S. history. During that time, it fought a 2007 bid from Mexican baked goods giant Grupo Bimbo and ex-Bill Clinton vulture capitalist pal Ron Burkle of the Yucapaipa Companies. With the leadership of Craig Jung, the company emerged from bankruptcy as a private company on February 3, 2009. The plan included a 50 percent equity stake by Ripplewood Holdings and lines/loans by General Electric Capital and GE Capital Markets, Silver Point Finance and Monarch Master Funding. Interstate's union workers made contract concessions in exchange for equity. Since declaring bankruptcy in 2009, Interstate closed nine of its 54 bakeries and more than 300 outlet stores. It also reduced its work force from 32,000 to 22,000 people and pulled out of some markets. (Wikipedia).The next trial in New York's Southern District Bankruptcy court is scheduled for next month.
While you're waiting, do read the wonderful Charles Pierce's "In Defense of Twinkies", a masterpiece of junk food gourmandism and caloric history. An excerpt:
The Twinkie's formidable shelf life has aroused curiosity among bored undergraduates, the scientific community, and people who are, well, members of both. Most seriously, the Twinkie was subjected to a grim series of experiments eight years ago by a pair of young scientists at Rice University in Houston. They tested Twinkies for artificial intelligence (the cakes failed), electric resistivity (the filling bubbled a little, but that was all), and gravitational response, in which test a Twinkie was launched from a sixth-floor window, with the result that, upon contact with the sidewalk, only a small crack opened on the Twinkie's side. The pair also performed a solubility test, immersing a Twinkie in a glass of tap water. After 24 hours, they reported "the beginnings of a creamy ooze at the surface of the water."
"After 48 hours in the water," they continued, "the Twinkie had not changed any more in size. However, the creamy filling somehow oozed out of the center and was collecting on the surface of the water. The water itself was a very dark brown. When we attempted to pour the water out of the cup, it quickly became apparent that the Twinkie had no structural integrity at all. It ... turned into a lump of goo in the sink."
Pity. You should probably eat them if you're going to do anything with them. Or not.
Okay, I think it's time for a Twinkie run. Watch out for vulture capitalists scarfing up the supplies in the snack aisles, and attack if you must. I won't tell if you don't.