Hostess, Twinkies: 5 Game-Changing Strikes

Hostess Products We'll All Miss
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It's been a sad week for those with fond memories of Twinkies, Ho Ho's and Ding Dongs. Hostess Inc., the company that manufactures the sweet confections with the never-ending shelf life, is ceasing operations after striking employees refused to return to work by a company-imposed deadline.

The shutdown—which includes 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers, approximately 5,500 delivery routes and 570 bakery outlet stores throughout the United States--was the result of a nationwide strike that began on Nov. 9, when Hostess imposed a contract that would cut workers' wages by 8 percent. The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), which represents more than 80,000 industry workers, said the contract would also cut benefits by 27 to 32 percent.

BCTGM president Frank Hurt told the Wall Street Journal that there's "more than a good chance" someone would swoop in to buy the company's 30 brands and preserve jobs. He said that Twinkies and Wonder Bread are popular and they will be "produced somewhere, some time and by our members."

Chief Executive Officer Gregory F. Rayburn said that Hostess did "not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike," and that the company would promptly begin laying off most of its 18,500 workforce. A bankruptcy court meets today to discuss the disposition of the company's assets.

But Hostess is not the only brand to fall apart as the result of a strike. Here's a list of some notorious strikes, and what happened to the companies and their workers.

Pittsburgh Press

On May 17, 1992, striking workers shut down publication of the Pittsburgh Press and, by default, the Post-Gazette, daily newspapers that operated under a joint agreement.

The strike against the Press Co.--which printed and distributed both the Press and the smaller, separately owned Post-Gazette--was prompted by the Press trying to force 605 delivery drivers into a new distribution system, cutting 75 percent of their jobs, according to the LA Times.

The strike lasted from the summer through the winter, and ended when E.W. Scripps Co., which owned the Press, sold it to Blade Communications Inc., the Post-Gazette's owners. The Press was folded, and the Post-Gazette became the main paper in town. The Press was revived as an online newspaper in November, 2011. Some of the employees applied for and received jobs at the Post-Gazette but hundreds of jobs simply disappeared.

Eastern Airlines

On March 4, 1989, after being asked to accept deep pay and benefits cuts, Eastern Airlines employees represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, went on strike.

Pilots and flight attendants joined in, which effectively shuttered the airline's domestic operations, resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue. The company filed for bankruptcy protection on March 9, 1989, but the damage had been done. The airline limped along and stopped flying at midnight Saturday, January 19, 1991.

Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization

Angered over pay rates, working conditions and benefits, on August 3, 1981, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) union went on strike. This was illegal and violated a law banning government unions from striking. This curtailed air travel, and President Ronald Reagan ordered the workers back to the job. But only about 1,300 of the 13,000 listened, and two days later, Reagan fired the remaining air traffic controllers, and forbade them from ever returning to federal service. After being $40 million in debt, the union subsequently filed for bankruptcy, the New York Times reported. The union was broken.

Steel Strike of 1959

This was the largest US strike and one of the last mega-scale strikes, when 500,000 steel workers went out over wages and a contract clause that would have allowed management to cut the number of union workers allocated to certain job functions -- a practice known as featherbedding. President Eisenhower invoked the Taft-Hartley Act and ordered the unions back to work. The unions returned after four months, winning cost of living adjustments for the first time and beating back the work rules clause. But the unions may have also sown the seeds of their own destruction. Steel imports soared after the strike and industry jobs in the US have fallen steadily over the decades to about 87,000. China now produces 45 percent of the world's steel.

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