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On Twinkies, Ho Hos, Hedge Funds and Greed

by Abby Zimet

Hostess Brands - Texas-based maker of the iconic, for better or worse, Twinkies, Ding-Dongs, Wonder Bread and other marvels of chemical engineering rumored to be able to survive nuclear catastrophe, is closing, putting 18,500 workers at 33 bakeries and 565 distribution centers out of work. Much of the media coverage is blaming recent strikes by union bakery workers, who had overwhelmingly rejected drastic contract concessions. But the company has a long history of financial instability and ownership changes, including two earlier bankruptcies. The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union blames greed by Wall Street hedge funds that had taken over control, unreasonable demands including wage and benefit cuts of up to 30% even as top executives got large pay increases, and a decade of gross mismanagement by a company that had already gone through six CEOs in eight years. Changing tastes, too, played a part. Still, the brand has become a cultural touchstone. and tweeters are lamenting its loss. The best tweet: "The only food that can survive an apocalypse will no longer be made. Well played Mayans. Well played."

“The Wall Street investors who took over the company after the last bankruptcy attempted to resolve the mess by attacking the company’s most valuable asset – its workers....Responsibility for the failure of the company rests squarely on the shoulders of the company's decision-makers." - union president Frank Hurt.

Update: Twinkies may yet survive. A judge has refused to approve the liquidation, and both sides have agreed to mediation.

What's in a Twinkie, you might or might not ask. Its 37 ingredients, many of which derive from rock or oil:

Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour [Flour, Reduced Iron, B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid)], Corn Syrup, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening (Soybean, Cottonseed and/or Canola Oil, Beef Fat), Whole Eggs, Dextrose. Contains 2% or Less of: Modified Corn Starch, Glucose, Leavenings (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Sweet Dairy Whey, Soy Protein Isolate, Calcium and Sodium Caseinate, Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour, Cornstarch, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sorbic Acid (to Retain Freshness), Yellow 5, Red 40.

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