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This I Believe

[ 46 ] November 16, 2012 |

A broadcast of “This I Believe,” by Ralph Nafziger, founder of Hostess, in the 1950s:

The most important thing to for me to remember is that what I want is not necessarily what other people want. Thinking of what people want does not start with self; it starts with the Golden Rule. It comes from the heart. Basically, a person must love others. One must feel for others, before he thinks for them. Success will often elude the man ambitious for his own gain, and choose instead to bestow its rewards upon the man who finds the answer to the question, “How can I help others in what I do?” I believe that people often do not know themselves what they want, but they respond enthusiastically when some benefactors offers them the answer. The person who has this gift of knowing what other people want in life is like a Christmas card, continually wishing other success, happiness and a long life. A person who develops this eighth and ninth sense, is on the way to success. Really, the only people hard to understand are the dishonest and abnormal ones. Fortunately, most people are fundamentally sound, honest, and upright. Knowing what people want and providing it for them can bring the material rewards of this life and the biggest bonus of them all: true, eminent, satisfaction. This I believe: the most direct path to personal happiness is to make other people happy.

Hostess today:

Hostess Brands — the maker of such iconic baked goods as Twinkies, Drake’s Devil Dogs and Wonder Bread — announced Friday that it is asking a federal bankruptcy court for permission to close its operations, blaming a strike by bakers protesting a new contract imposed on them.

The closing will result in Hostess’ nearly 18,500 workers losing their jobs as the company shuts 33 bakeries and 565 distribution centers nationwide, as well as 570 outlet stores. The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union represents around 5,000 Hostess employees.

“We deeply regret the necessity of today’s decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike,” said CEO Gregory Rayburn in a statement.

Hostess will move to sell its assets to the highest bidder. That could mean new life for some of its most popular products, which could be scooped up at auction and attached to products from other companies.

A letter that Hostess sent to its network of stores that carry its product said it expects “there will be great interest in our brands.” But it said it could not give a time frame for when the sales would take place and its products would be available again.

But even if those brands are bought and restarted, the Hostess workers will not get their jobs back.


Laura Clawson with analysis:

Of course, Hostess management had already claimed that the strike would be responsible for the closings of specific plants—when it had already planned to close plants even if the workers accepted the cuts and stayed at work. BCTGM President Frank Hurt says the workers understood who they were dealing with:

Our members know that the plans all along of the Wall Street investors currently in control of this company did not include the operation of Hostess Brands any longer than it takes to sell the company in whole—or in part—in a way that will maximize the profits of these vulture capitalists regardless of the impact on the workforce.

Workers were being asked to accept cuts, but top executives had gotten massive raises as Hostess was about to enter bankruptcy. Investments in the company’s future that had been promised as part of restructuring after the previous bankruptcy were never made. And as for the management, put in place by the private equity companies that now own Hostess, Hurt says:

Unfortunately however, for the past eight years management of the company has been in the hands of Wall Street investors, “restructuring experts”, third-tier managers from other non-baking food companies and currently a “liquidation specialist”. Six CEO’s in eight years, none of whom with any bread and cake baking industry experience, was the prescription for failure.

Comments (46)

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  1. mark f says:

    Workers were being asked to accept cuts, but top executives had gotten massive raises as Hostess was about to enter bankruptcy. Investments in the company’s future that had been promised as part of restructuring after the previous bankruptcy were never made

    Ding-Dong, Daddy, you’re coming up short.

  2. And yet I had fools in my Twitter feed yesterday blaming it all on those damn unions!!

    • olexicon says:

      “How People like Mitt Romney killed Twinkies for people who voted for Mitt Romney”

    • Linnaeus says:

      Yeah, I was fighting with Facebook people about this.

    • Reilly says:

      Well today I had a fellow union member in my union blaming it on those damn unions. There’s nothing more perplexing and disturbing than union-bashing within the ranks of union workers.

      • Linnaeus says:

        Can’t say that surprises me. I know the Teamsters agreed to the last offer and I’ve heard (but haven’t been able to confirm) that they wanted the BCTGM to take another vote on whether to continue the strike.

        • Richard says:

          True. Teamsters wanted the Bakers to reconsider. Story yesterday in the Sacramento Bee to that effect (but I cant find the link)

        • Ed says:

          The Teamsters are making their disagreement pretty clear:

          http://www.teamster.org/content/teamsters-bakery-workers-should-hold-secret-ballot-vote-hostess

          That strike is now on the verge of forcing the company to liquidate – it is difficult for Teamster members to believe that is what the BCTGM Hostess members ultimately wanted to accomplish when they went out on strike. We may never know unless the BCTGM members, based on the facts they know today, get to determine their fate in a secret ballot vote. Teamster members would understand that the will of the BCTGM Hostess membership was truly heard if that was the case.

          I don’t know enough about the buildup to this to judge. I can well believe these guys were screwed and were just resisting more of the same, but from a PR and human standpoint this outcome is disastrous – unless as has been suggested the company might still be willing to go forward if the unions fold.

          • Njorl says:

            It’s not like we’re going to eat fewer snack cakes. If Hostess wasn’t willing to pay people the going rate to bake cupcakes, someone else will. Whether Hostess, Little Debbie or Tastykake bakes the cupcakes doesn’t matter. They’re going to be eaten; they’re going to be baked; someone will be paid to bake them.

  3. Holden Pattern says:

    In the United States, bad things are by default attributed to whomever is to the left of the party doing the blaming unless there’s a massive effort (by which I mean presidential-campaign-level effort) to do otherwise. Watch how this narrative shakes out in the public mind.

  4. pathman says:

    A bunch of vulture capitalists jump in, rape the company then run away. Let’s call it “Mitt Romney style.”

  5. Sherm says:

    For christ’s sake, I go on a diet for three months and Hostess goes out of business. No one else here could have picked up the slack for me?

  6. olexicon says:

    We’re fortunate here in Canada, Twinkies are manufactured by Saputo and Wonderbread is manufactured by grocery giant Loblaws, so pudgy Canadians need not fear

  7. howard says:

    amazing how often it’s the ceo’s success and the workers’ failure.

    in fact, of course, ceos have way too much power and way too little oversight, and while sometimes business failure is structural, it is quite frequently literally the ceo’s fault.

  8. Hogan says:

    Knowing what people want and providing it for them can bring the material rewards of this life and the biggest bonus of them all: true, eminent, satisfaction.

    But not half the satisfaction you get from knowing what your employees want and telling them to shove it.

  9. Murc says:

    You know, I sort of like how candid they’re being about this.

    I was expecting a certain amount of weaseling, statements saying that what the workers are asking for would make the company completely unprofitable and so, more in sorrow than in anger, they’re forced to close their doors.

    Only no! They’re straight-up admitting that they only reason they’re closing is they can’t profitably weather “the strike.” Not even an attempt to say that what the workers want is unreasonable. Or saying that the company can’t be made profitable. It’s not just that they don’t see anything wrong with looting a viable business because the workers got uppity, it’s that they don’t see anything wrong in ADMITTING it.

  10. Major Kong says:

    Obviously it’s the fault of the people stoking the boilers and not the guy steering the ship that the Titanic went down.

  11. steeleweed says:

    Was/is Bain involved? Sounds like their style of [un]doing business.

    • Linnaeus says:

      According to the BCTGM (the bakers’ union), the company came out of bankruptcy owned by Ripplewood Holdings (a private equity firm), Silver Point Capital, and Monarch Alternative Capital (both hedge funds).

  12. Josh G. says:

    There sure seem to be a lot of temper tantrums thrown by rich people as a result of this election.

    • NonyNony says:

      There do, but the Hostess bankruptcy seems to be going according to a longer term plan for extracting the most money from the company by selling off the brands and the other assets.

      I imagine that if the Bakers Union caved again this time, the owners would continue to bleed money from the company, force it into hard times again, and use that to extract more concessions from their unions. It isn’t like they haven’t done this multiple times since the initial bankruptcy proceeding started years ago. Eventually one of the unions was going to stand up to them and then they go to plan B – liquidate the company and pocket the proceeds.

      • Cody says:

        Yes, the manner in which equities can print their own money if they’re willing to bankrupt a company is disturbing.

        They destroy the workers’ lives in the process, and get to blame it on the workers! What a great scam!

        It’s all just like Mitt Romney’s handling of Bain Consulting’s near-bankruptcy. “If you don’t give me millions of dollars, I’m going to bankrupt the company giving myself a bonus and you’ll lose even more money!”

        Capitalism!

  13. CJColucci says:

    A few weeks ago, there was an office party with cupcakes from some fancy bakery. One of the cupcakes reminded a few of us of Hostess Cupcakes, the creme-filled, devil’s food cupcake with chocolate frosting and the white frosting squiggle, which I used to scarf down voraciously, but hadn’t eaten in decades. Today, I saw them in the vending machine downstairs. Since they had already been bought, I got a package. Not bad, but not as good as I remembered.

    • STH says:

      I used to like Ho-Hos [insert slut and birth control joke here], since they had a higher ratio of faux “chocolate” coating to cake.

      I never could understand people choosing Twinkies over chocolate cupcakes or Ho-Hos. As far as desserts go, there’s chocolate and then there’s everything else.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Stop calling it “rape,” please.

  15. jeer9 says:

    ‘Being a creature of habit, as regular as a monk, and taking pleasure in the homeliest repetitions, I listen every night at ten to a program called This I Believe. Monks have their compline, I have This I Believe. On the program hundreds of the highest-minded people in our country, thoughtful and intelligent people, people with mature inquiring minds, state their personal credos. The two or three hundred I have heard so far were without exception admirable people. I doubt if any other country or any other time in history has produced such thoughtful and high-minded people, especially the women. And especially the South. I do believe the South has produced more high-minded women, women of universal sentiments, than any other section of the country except possibly New England in the last century. Of my six living aunts, five are women of the loftiest theosophical pan-Brahman sentiments. The sixth is still a Presbyterian.

    If I had to name a single trait that all these people shared, it is their niceness. Their lives are triumphs of niceness. They like everyone with the warmest and most generous feelings. And as for themselves: it would be impossible for even a dour person not to like them.

    Tonight’s subject is a playwright who transmits this very quality of niceness in his plays. He begins:

    I believe in people. I believe in tolerance and understanding between people. I believe in the uniqueness and the dignity of the individual—

    Everyone on This I Believe believes in the uniqueness and dignity of the individual. I have noticed, however, that the believers are hardly unique themselves, are in fact like peas in a pod.

    I believe in music. I believe in a child’s smile. I believe in love. I also believe in hate.

    This is true. I have known a couple of these believers, humanists and lady psychologists who come to my aunt’s house. On This I Believe </em they like everyone. But when it comes down to this or that particular person, I have noticed that they usually hate his guts.

    I did not always enjoy This I Believe. While I was living at my aunt’s house, I was overtaken by a fit of perversity. But instead of writing a letter to an editor, as was my custom, I recorded a tape which I sumbitted to Mr. Edward R. Murrow. “Here are the beliefs of John Bickerson Bolling, a moviegoer living in New Orleans,” it began, and ended, “I believe in a good kick in the ass. This — I believe.” I soon regretted it, however, as what my grandfather would have called “a smart-alecky stunt” and I was relieved when the tape was returned. I have listened faithfully to This I Believe ever since.

    I believe in freedom, the sacredness of the individual and the brotherhood of man -

    concludes the playwright.

    I believe in believing. This – I believe.

    All my shakiness over Sharon is gone. I switch off my radio and lie in bed with a pleasant tingling sensation in my groin, a tingling for Sharon and for all my fellow Americans.’

    —Walker Percy, The Moviegoer(1960)

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