CINCINNATI - Hostess Brands Inc. is permanently closing three bakeries following a nationwide strike by its bakers union, including its Butternut Bread bakery in Cincinnati.
The Texas-based maker of Twinkies and Ding Dongs says the strike has prevented it from producing and delivering products.
Hostess warned earlier this month that the strike, by about 30 percent of its workforce, could lead to bakery closures.
It said Monday that it will close bakeries in Seattle, St. Louis and Cincinnati that collectively employ 627 workers. The company has about 18,300 employees.
Thousands of members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union went on strike earlier this month to protest wage and benefit cuts. Officials say the company stopped contributing to workers' pension last year. The union rejected the company's contract offer in September.
Butternut Bread Bakery employee Bernadine Moore said she is devastated to learn that she and her fellow 149 co-workers are out of work.
"I have spent 14 years here, everybody that works here is my family," she said. "I spent more time with them than I do my own family."
Butternut employee Kevin LeBlanc said the treatment is not fair.
"We gotta take care of our family. How are we supposed to do that if we don't know what's going on until the news comes and tells me," LeBlanc said. "Guess what, you don't have a job anymore. That's not fair."
Moore said she and other employees are facing the consequences of stepping outside to stand with picketers.
"We are not on strike we are honoring a strike," Moore said. "The company chose to lock us out."
Butternut employee Jason Houp said many people are hurting now.
"The pension is gone, it's gone. You've got guys with 25 years, 27 years," Houp said. "I've got 17 years into it. Guys with four months left to retire that's gone."
Workers said two weeks ago, their wages were cut 8 percent and health insurance went up.
"They had these concessions, our members rejected it by a 92 percent vote," International Representative for the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union John Price said. "Rather than come back to the table and get the contract fixed, they went to a bankruptcy judge and said go ahead and impose it on the bakery workers."
Hostess gave this statement:
"We have repeatedly explained that we will close facilities that are no longer able to produce and deliver products because of a work stoppage."
Moore said she is not happy about having to start the job search again .
"I guess I have to get out on the corner at the expressway and stand with a sign, and this is for real, I have just lost my job," Moore said.
Hostess said customers will not be affected by the closures. A spokesperson for Hostess Brands also released the following statement upon request by 9 News:
The company negotiated extensively with the BCTGM. The BCTGM was actively picketing at the plant. They were not locked out. In fact, we actively encouraged employees to cross the picket line and return to work to avoid this outcome.
Hey the unions had a right to refuse the agreement or concessions, but the companyhad every right to close up as well. and don't play unions as victims .....they tend to fair better with the labor board then companies a lot of the time. Me personally prefer to get a head on my own...I don't need a union to get a head.