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(AP Photo)

Seattle hostess factory shuts down after worker strike

Dori and producer Jake Skorheim talk often on The Dori Monson Show about how much they love Hostess Twinkies and Ding Dongs, so they were disappointed when the Seattle Hostess factory closed down after a union strike.

After several months of contract talks, the Hostess workers went on strike to try to counter a pay cut. They also say that the company stopped contributing to worker pensions last year.

"An eight percent wage cut is horrible for anyone in this economy, but especially for these members who have taken wage freezes in the past for years," said International Union of Operating Engineers Local 286 spokesman Christian Dube in an interview with KING 5 News.

Hostess, based in Irving, Texas, operates 36 bakeries nationwide and has about 18,300 employees. It warned earlier this month that the strike, by about 30 percent of its workforce, could lead to bakery closures.

"A widespread strike will cause Hostess Brands to liquidate if we are unable to produce or deliver products," said Hostess Brands in a statement on their website. "If that's the case, the company will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,300-member workforce and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders."

Hostess Brands also acknowledged in their press release that they were asking a lot of their employees. The company reported that most of their union and non-union employees nation-wide had approved the new deal - and the pay cut.

"We urge our employees to remain on the job to rebuild the company," said Hostess. "Sixty-four percent of our workforce is composed of non-union employees and employees represented by unions that ratified our proposals for modified collective bargaining agreements. We believe they have earned the right to rebuild Hostess. We know the concessions are tough, but it would make more sense for unhappy employees to simply leave the company voluntarily than to strike and cause the company to close down, forcing everyone to lose their jobs."

Given the major financial problems that Hostess Brands has had for several years, Dori thinks that the strike came at a bad time. The company filed for bankruptcy for the second time just a few months ago, in January of this year.

"Do people not understand what this economy is like right now?" said Dori.

Dori respects that there is a place for unions, but he thinks that union officials may have acted without considering the consequences of their actions.

"You just caused 110 people to go out of work because they wouldn't take an eight percent pay cut," said Dori. "You know what, a 100 percent pay cut is a whole lot worse. And I feel bad for these workers. I don't know if all of them agreed to the strike, but what I know is all 110 of them in Seattle and 627 nationwide in these three factories are now out of a job."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jillian Raftery, KIRO Radio Editor
Jillian Raftery is an afternoon editor at KIRO Radio. She loves the neighborly vibe of the Pacific Northwest and spends as much time as possible outdoors.
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