Hostess Employee Tells All About CEO Gutting Pensions, Pay Scales

Via Daily Kos, a story that reads like a horror movie script. First, there is the "accounting error": When I received my first paycheck from then Interstate Bakeries in 1999 it had a memo stapled to it. The memo announced that Wonder had just had

hostess-products.jpg
Via Daily Kos, a story that reads like a horror movie script. First, there is the "accounting error":

When I received my first paycheck from then Interstate Bakeries in 1999 it had a memo stapled to it. The memo announced that Wonder had just had the most productive quarter in baking history. It stated that the health of the company and brand had never been better. The break room was buzzing with excitement because our contract was soon to be up for renegotiation and this would surely mean smooth sailing. A few weeks later we got the 'oops' letter. Turns out it was all an 'accounting' error and the company was failing miserably.

Conveniently though, CEO Charles Sullivan and the board managed to sell their stock before word got out about the bad news. No jail time of course. In fact, Sullivan was brought back as a consultant after his resignation. Enron happened a few years later and at the bakery we were amazed how much attention they got compared to us.

Then there was the paycheck cut:

In 2005 it was another contract year and this time there was no way out of concessions. The Union negotiated a deal that would save the company $150 million a year in labor. It was a tough internal battle to get people to vote for it. We turned it down twice. Finally the Union told us it was in our best interest and something had to give. So many of us, including myself, changed our votes and took the offer. Remember that next time you see CEO Rayburn on tv stating that we haven't sacrificed for this company. The company then emerged from bankruptcy. In 2005 before concessions I made $48,000, last year I made $34,000. My pay changed dramatically but at least I was still contributing to my self-funded pension.

Yes, and when that deal was done Hostess was also under new management. Ripplewood Holdings and GE Capital Corporation had a 50 percent stake in Hostess. Harvey Golub, former American Express and AIG chairman, was the "management" arm of Ripplewood beginning in 2007. And look what happened next.

In July of 2011 we received a letter from the company. It said that the $3+ per hour that we as a Union contribute to the pension was going to be 'borrowed' by the company until they could be profitable again. Then they would pay it all back. The Union was notified of this the same time and method as the individual members. No contact from the company to the Union on a national level.

This money will never be paid back. The company filed for bankruptcy and the judge ruled that the $3+ per hour was a debt the company couldn't repay. The Union continued to work despite this theft of our self-funded pension contributions for over a year. I consider this money stolen. No other word in the English language describes what they have done to this money.

Yes, well. The timing on that is a little weird, because Hostess Brands turned over their pension plans to the PBGC back in 2010. The effect of it is essentially as the writer describes: Their contribution to the pension plans is lost to them. They will receive their PBGC earned benefit under a formula that allows their employer and equity fund owner to profit much at the expense of employees' pensions.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. As equity funds have taken more and more control of companies, they have also robbed more and more employees of a living wage, their pensions, and more. One need only point to how bankruptcy laws were rewritten to understand how Hostess investors managed to make a killing and protect their investment at the expense of their employees, who paid for it with their hard-earned dollars.

There ought to be a law against that.

About karoli

karoli's picture
Card-carrying member of we, the people.

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.