NY Post: Labor unrest baking Hostess union blues
Labor unrest baking
Hostess union blues
By JOSH KOSMAN
Last Updated: 11:32 AM, November 5, 2012
It’s shaping up as a big week for organized labor.
In addition to the presidential election, some unionized workers at bankrupt Hostess Brands appear to be girding for a strike.
Six thousand members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union were told last week that a strike has been sanctioned, according to memo sent by union leaders, a copy of which has been obtained by The Post.
What’s more, the union, which represents about half of the workers at Hostess, the maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, sent a notice to members at its 36 locals in recent days saying it would fine members $140 a day if they crossed a picket line, roughly equal to their weekly pay, two sources said.
The bakers union did not return calls for comment.
Hostess, which won the right to force the new contract on those 6,000 workers, started imposing 8 percent pay cuts on about one-third of them on Oct. 22.
The strategy seems aimed at keeping bakers at all 36 locations from striking at once.
The bakers union, as part of its last collective bargaining deal, agreed not to strike unless a new labor agreement was forced on them.
In the union’s memo, leadership said a strike action by local unions, which have had the company’s final offer imposed on them, “is hereby deemed as sanctioned and authorized by the International Union.”
“The sanctioning and authorization includes honoring a picket line established by striking members of a different BCTGM local union,” the memo read in part.
“It sounds to me like they are worried about the pulse of the members — and if they can sustain a strike,” said one source not affiliated with the bakers union of the threat of fines for crossing a picket line.
On Sept. 14, 92 percent of bakers union members voted down a scaled-back labor deal, while the Teamsters accepted it.
Bakery locals were planning to begin striking when the cuts were seen in their paychecks, sources said. That happened Friday.
Now, sources said the aim is to strike shortly after tomorrow’s election. Unions have been a strong supporter of President Obama.
Some people close to the situation cautioned that a strike was not guaranteed. “I think as time passes a strike becomes less likely,” one source said.
Hostess, hobbled by high labor costs, filed for Chapter 11 protection earlier this year. The nation’s largest baker emerged from its first bankruptcy in 2009.
A route driver who works a 60-hour week told The Post, “My take home pay for last week: $418.50. I was making $550. You’re a smart guy, you do the math.”