Billings News

Nov 15, 2012 9:46 AM by MTN News

Hostess announces possible liquidation, including Billings plant

BILLINGS - More than 100 employees of the Hostess Sweetheart Bakery plant on Midland Road in Billings went on strike Saturday evening.

Factory workers at the plant stood in heavy coats on the skirts of the lot, quietly holding signs as more workers trickled in to join the protest.

The picketers, who join the employees of seven other Hostess factories also striking across the country, say they are asking for the liquidation of the company, as many workers feel Hostess' current financial situation has no light at the end of the tunnel.

Eusebio Diaz, business agent for Local 466, said this strike is not a negotiation process: "What we want to do is we want to shut the company down and force them to liquidate so somebody will come buy a plant and we have a future. Somebody that has some money and knows how to run a company."

Hostess first entered bankruptcy in 2004 after a failed restructuring attempt. Following the filing for bankruptcy, Hostess closed production plants and cut about 5,000 jobs that reports say saved $110 million.

It wasn't until 2009 that Hostess emerged from bankruptcy as new ownership took over. Although new ownership was in place, Hostess filed for bankruptcy for the second time in January 2012.

Since 2002, six different CEOs have headed the company.

Hostess has announced that it will file a motion to liquidate the company, if the striking employees do not return to work.

Sweetheart Bakery workers in Billings say they would welcome Hostess selling the assets to another investor.

Hostess gave a deadline of 5 p.m. on Thursday for the workers to return, or else it will file to liquidate in Federal Bankruptcy Court.

The union says if Hostess follows through, it will make it better for the workers.

Diaz says the company's last, best, and final offer was 26% to 33% less than what workers had been making.

"It's basically about the financial situation the company is in. This is our second bankruptcy going around and we're continually going backwards. They just got too much debt amassed to go forward. So it's time for us to force the company to liquidate and get somebody else in here that knows how to run a company and go forward that knows how to run a business."

"We simply do not have the financial resources to survive an ongoing national strike. Therefore, if sufficient employees do not return to work by 5 p.m. on Thursday to restore normal operations, we will be forced to immediately move to liquidate the entire company, which will result in the loss of nearly 18,000 jobs," Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn said.

"It is now up to Hostess' BCTGM-represented employees and Frank Hurt, their international president, to decide if they want to call off the strike and save this company, or cause massive financial harm to thousands of employees and their families," Rayburn continued.

Hostess announced on Monday that it closed plants in Seattle, St. Louis, and Cincinnati due to the BCTGM strike that started Saturday. BCTGM said on Tuesday that it is not true that the strike is the reason for the closures.

Hostess outlined the liquidation process, saying that it will file its motion on Friday, and the company also asked for a hearing on Monday, November 19.

If the motion is granted, Hostess Brands will begin closing all of its operations as early as Tuesday, November 20.

Sweetheart in Billings would not comment, but says it is still operating and baking bread.

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