BILLINGS -- A weekend strike by bakers at most of the nation's Sweetheart Bakeries, including in Billings, has taken 10 months of labor unrest during the parent company’s latest bankruptcy to a new, more precarious, level.
Hostess Brands Inc., said bakers walked off their jobs Saturday night at about 23 out of their 36 bakeries.
The only Sweetheart Bakery in Montana is in Billings and employs about 130 people, although the number of strikers is unknown. Production lines are still cranking out Twinkies and WonderBread, according Anita-Marie Laurie, a company spokeswoman in Los Angeles.
“Not all bakers are striking. There are people who are showing up to work,” she said, and managers are filling in for striking workers.
The three Sweetheart Bakery Outlet stores in Billings, and the other 567 outlet stores across the country, are open.
In September, Hostess Brand reached an agreement in a lengthy bankruptcy process to re-write collective bargaining agreements. But two months ago, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers International Union rejected the Hostess’ offer of deep concessions, according to the Wall Street Journal. The bankruptcy judge then gave Hostess permission to force the baker’s union to accept the new contracts.
Chief Executive Gregory Rayburn told the Journal on Monday that the strike by bakers, about 30 percent of the workforce, could result in plant closures and a possible liquidation of the company assets.
The company has been trying to reorganize its finances and find a buyer, which has been unsuccessful.
On Friday, the bakers union called the strike a protest of a “horrendous contract.” The bakers object to more wage cuts and a lack of participation in new pension plans, according to the Journal.
The bakers union said liquidation is the best way to save jobs at some bakeries by breaking up Hostess, so the individual plants may be sold off.
But the drivers, members of the Teamsters Union, were crossing picket lines Monday, according to the Journal.
Interstate Bakeries Corp, the former name for Hostess, also filed for bankruptcy in 2009, a bankruptcy that lasted five years.